This article is sponsored by Penn State - Abington and Congreso de Latinos Unidos. It was reviewed before publication
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Summer is almost done and for most graduating seniors that means college is right around the corner. However, the graduates of eastern North Philadelphia’s newest dual enrollment program already have a head start.
The first cohort of the program, a collaboration between Congreso de Latinos Unidos and Penn State Abington, have completed their final courses and earned their 15 college credits and a full Penn State certificate along with their high school diplomas.
“With all the courses I took, I’m a semester ahead of all the other freshmen there and that is great,” said Arlene Montesino, who we interviewed when she was still a senior at Kensington Health Sciences Academy. “That less money I have to spend and less time I waste.”
Just as the end of high school can be a time of reflection on your future as a student. Congreso and Penn State Abington have been reflecting on the future of their new dual enrollment program.
“We’ve already started planning on adding study groups on a weekly basis,” said Dorothy Smith, manager of programmatic employment services at Congreso. “We have asked Penn State to give us any extra textbooks so we can have them here at Congreso. I really see the benefit of a more hands-on approach when it comes to course work and helping them through that, supporting them, and making sure that they feel like they’re on top of it.”
The natural next step, said Carlos Cartagena, director of post-secondary services at Congreso, is branching out into other subjects and majors. But more so than that, the goal is to see the community change and improve.
“Innovation happens when you’re designing programs and evaluating programs and shifting things so the program works,” he said. “You see how the students are doing, you look at the instructors and how they related with the students. But ultimately, what we want to see is those high school dropout rates lowering and economic stability rising. That’s what we at Congreso strive for every day.”
For Penn State Abington, the partnership with Congreso has been nothing but positive and informative, said Jake Benfield, an associate professor at Penn State Abington. It has become a model for them as they look to expand their reach into Philadelphia.
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“Community organizations have a true grasp on the neighborhoods they serve,” Benfield said. “As we look to expand this model into other areas of the city that need it, we want to find those partners and solve the same kinds of problems.”-30-
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