felt like an unattainable dream for Braulio Florentino when he was a
rising junior at Glasgow (Delaware) High School, making average grades, sometimes
below average. While he had the ambition, the idea of getting into
college seemed out of reach, financially and academically.
“A good amount of my high school career it was hard,” said
Florentino. “College seemed like something for the kids who got straight
A's and had money.”
Florentino had immigrated with his family to the United States from
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, when he was a young boy. Nearing high
school graduation, aside from the typical challenges of getting into
college, Florentino faced an additional hurdle: His parents could not
share firsthand experience or advice with him on how to prepare for, let
alone survive college. He and his family had never stepped on a college
Florentino planned to finish high school and get a job. But a
presentation at his school on the University of Delaware’s College
Readiness Scholars Institute changed his mind — and his life.
The College Readiness Scholars Institute (CRSI) is an intensive
two-week summer program for underserved and underrepresented Delaware
high school students. UD partners with the Christina School District to
provide high school juniors and seniors with an academic and social
introduction to college. Florentino applied for the program and was
“Attending CRSI was the first time seeing people of color from
similar backgrounds as me in higher education, so that was very
motivating,” said Florentino. “My view of college changed at that
Florentino, like other CRSI participants, attended daily classes such
as college math, college essay writing and a University Studies course.
He took part in organized study sessions and had exposure to resources
such as the Office of Student Services and information on how to finance
college. Moreover, he learned how to develop study skills and balance
academics with social activities. Armed with new knowledge and
confidence, Florentino raised his high school grades and by his senior
year was getting A's.
To date, CRSI has served 71 students who have an 81.3 percent college
matriculation rate. Approximately 45 percent of participants enroll at
UD. Florentino is one of them.
Today, Florentino, a sophomore, is shining at UD with a 3.5 GPA in
biological sciences and plans to go to medical school and become a pediatric surgeon. Some of his
closest friends on campus are those he met at CRSI. He serves as a
diversity enrichment leader in the Office of Admissions and is treasurer
of We’re First, a campus organization for first-generation students
that provides a support system and network.
He also is a member of NUCLEUS, an undergraduate support program open to all College of Arts and
Sciences students. The program fosters academic excellence by providing
students with comprehensive academic services, connections,
opportunities and information.
An increasing focus on pre-college programs
The University has been making great strides on delivering programs
to promote college access and success, particularly for Delawareans. To
ensure these programs continue to be effective, the Office of Admissions
created a dedicated position - the director of pre-college programs -
and hired Nakia Mack to serve in the new role. A native of Philadelphia
with extensive experience in higher education admissions and student
retention, Mack was attracted to UD for its commitment to Delawareans.
“I found the University’s
commitment to Delaware so impressive,” said Mack. “I knew we would be
able to do great work here because of the staff and faculty dedicated to
student success and to Delawareans’ success.”
Mack said her vision is to bring uniformity to the various
pre-college programs that exist on campus. Some programs, like CRSI, are
geared toward rising juniors and seniors, while others, like Delaware
Futures, begin earlier in students’ high school careers. Some are
grant-funded, like the Give Something Back Foundation program and Upward
Bound, which is part of the federal TRiO family of programs. Most focus
on overall preparation, while others zero in on vital knowledge areas
like math and science.
Another kind of preparation comes through the UD Scholars program,
which serves students who did not make the grades needed to get into
UD’s main campus; they were given conditional acceptance that requires
completion of a two-week, highly intense orientation just before fall
semester begins. They learn to develop themselves as scholars, to
persevere and access resources needed to support their journey.
Not all pre-college program participants are struggling academically.
The Edge program serves high-achieving high school students who want to
experience college and gain credits early. The students live on campus
for six weeks while building skills and taking college-level courses
taught by UD faculty.
All of the University’s pre-college programs center on one goal: to prepare students to be successful in college.
“I would advise any student to try college,” said Florentino. “There
is a college out there for everyone and getting an education is what
matters. Work hard because it will pay off.”
Article by Cindy Hall; photo by Eric Ruth