By Emma Lyons
Congresswoman Katherine Clark announced a new $600,000 grant given to FSU and MassBay to expand the MetroWest College Early Start Program May 3.
This grant was given to the schools in order to expand the early college programs in effect in Milford and Framingham public schools to Waltham public schools, said Clark.
The program was expanded to the Waltham Public School District because it is a large district with a significant number of students who can benefit from it, President F. Javier Cevallos said.
“It was a logical next step - it’s a very diverse district with a lot of issues,” he said.
This program is focused on early intervention and starts at Grade 8, allowing students to take college preparation courses, Cevallos said.
Director of the program Roxanne Marrero said it focuses on giving students the tools they need to eventually complete a college degree.
Clark said that a theme frequently coming up in Congress is building equity into the education system. “That’s exactly what this program does. It meets high school students, follows their dreams, and gives them the tools and the resources to be successful. Then, in turn, it helps serve their communities and create economic opportunities for all of us,” she said.
Clark expressed support for the students enrolled in the program and the new students. “You are our future and we are thrilled with what the future looks like through your lives,” she said.
Katie Willard, assistant director of school counseling at Waltham public schools, said her goal for the program is to see students earning college credits and being put on the trajectory of a college degree.
The program is open access, so there are no grade requirements in order to enter the program, she said. “What we’re really looking for is a student that can really have that self discipline and motivation to persevere through learning new things and taking on an extra workload,” Willard said.
A large portion of the program's recruitment within Waltham High School has been through students already engaged in the process as they refer friends to join as well, said Kaitlyn Vallejos, college and career readiness coordinator at Waltham High School.
“We want to make sure that we’re providing as many pathways as possible for kids to engage in learning,” Waltham Public School District Superintendent Brian Regan said.
The program is intended to connect families to their children’s education as well, Willard said.
“We enroll families. We don’t enroll students,” she said.