As 16-year-old Marbeth Torres of Morristown High School prepares to be the first in her family to go to college, she’s learned to take advantage of the mentorships and programs offered to help set her on the right path.
“I’m taking opportunities as they come because you never know when something might just come along and really benefit you,” Torres says.
It was with that mindset that she accepted a golden opportunity to take part in the inaugural Pre-College Access Institute sponsored by Walmart.
Modeled after the University’s successful five-year-old Hispanic Student College Institute, the new program provided an opportunity for Torres and 85 other New Jersey students to live on campus and attend sessions on the transition to college, essay writing, financial aid and self-advocacy. A full day of separate workshops were offered for their parents and extended family members.
The Pre-College Access Institute on August 2-4 was among several summer programs offered by Montclair State to smooth the path to college. Others included a Summer Bridge Program for incoming first-year students that helped address learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and college preparedness. The Educational Opportunity Fund also provided a rigorous five-week program to set low-income students on the road to graduation.
With support from Walmart, Montclair State expanded its college path programming for underserved students. The Pre-College Access Institute invited African Americans, Asian Americans, Indigenous Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, Hispanic/Latinx Americans and multiracial Americans to take part in a full agenda of college preparation workshops on campus.
“This is an extension and within the framework of the work that I do on access, diversity, equity and inclusion,” says Katia Paz Goldfarb, associate provost for Hispanic Initiatives and International Programs. “We are grateful for the support from Walmart that has allowed us to open our doors to another group of students.”
The University followed strict COVID-19 protocols, including that students be fully vaccinated, to provide the residential programs this summer.
Jazmin Mora-Amaya, a Montclair State sophomore majoring in Business Administration, served as a peer mentor to the high school students. “I come from Paterson and didn’t receive these opportunities to learn how to apply for colleges, how to understand financial aid. These students were able to come here for free and learn about and experience campus life.”
For Alessandra Blount, a student at High Tech High School in Secaucus, her college plan, at least for now, is following her mother’s path. “I came to this program because my mom went to Montclair State, and I wanted to see the life that she said was amazing for her. Honestly, I think it’s been pretty great so far. I’m in love with the programs and campus.”
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren.
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