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First Year of SMU College Prep Program a Success

Twenty-five incoming ninth graders had their first college experiences this summer with a new program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Countdown to College (C2C) hosts first-generation students for a two-week program during each summer of their high school years to prepare them for higher education.

ArshadParticipant Arshad Williams, a graduate of San Miguel Gary Comer Campus in Chicago, called the program challenging, but fun. “My experience at C2C was fantastic and the camp was diverse so I made a lot of friends from different cultures,” Arshad said. “C2C also gave me a glimpse of what college is really like.”

C2C offers students free classes, recreation, field trips, and room and board. It also helps prepare university instructors for an increasingly diverse college population. Teachers from participating schools teach alongside them to learn how to better prepare their students for college.

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Participant Rhonda Greer, an eighth grade teacher at Catalyst Charter School-Howland Campus in Chicago, was impressed with how social and emotional aspects were tied into college education. “I came in looking for an academic experience with the students and I did get that, but I think I’m just overjoyed with the C2C program because it was the first time as a teacher that I saw students receiving a full package,” she said.

The program inspired Greer to bring a college mindset to her classroom to encourage her students by having them interact more and research colleges. She will also use a syllabus, lecture, display college banners and promote C2C.

Arshad, who plans to follow a career in business and management, is already looking forward to next summer. “I feel like I know a little more about what to expect when I start college,” he said. “I feel like C2C is preparing me and I will be well prepared when it’s my time to go to college.”

Current C2C participants are from Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Tucson. Twenty-five new students will join them each summer until the program reaches capacity at 100. C2C is the foundation segment of the university’s broader First-Generation Initiative, which provides college scholarships and support to first-generation students who demonstrate financial need as well as leadership and academic potential. This exciting initiative is profiled in the current issue of De La Salle Today.