Nichols Launches Fourth Year of Early College High School Program

Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., has continued this fall with a program aimed at exposing high school students to college-level academics.

The College hosted more than 50 seniors and first-year students from Bartlett High School in Webster last month to kick-off the fourth year of the Nichols Honors Academy.

A ceremony in Daniels Auditorium—led by Nichols President Susan West Engelkemeyer, Ph.D.; longtime Nichols benefactor and trustee Gerald Fels, new Webster Public Schools Superintendent Ruthann Goguen, and Bartlett Principal Steve Knowlton—recognized the 12th graders for their achievement so far, while the newly inducted ninth graders received a hearty welcome as well as Chrome laptops to launch their Honors Academy careers.

Through this program, high school juniors and seniors are able to take college courses on the Nichols campus, while freshmen and sophomores visit four times during the school year to get coaching in college readiness as well as simulating a full college day. The students are selected for the program based on their academic achievement and college ambitions.

“You’ve been selected,” Knowlton exhorted the students. “You can do it. You wouldn’t be sitting here if we didn’t think that you belonged here.”

In her remarks, President Engelkemeyer singled out the seniors.

“We recognize you as our pioneers,” she told them. “I hope your successful experience in the Nichols courses helps you to know, ‘I’ve got it,’” when it comes to the ability to do college-level work.

Fels, who with his wife Marilyn sponsors the Honors Academy, added, “I hope the program has fulfilled your expectations and helped you decide on how to pursue a college education. Keep going at it. Keep plugging away. At some point you’ll give back to the community.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has touted similar programs across the state.

“Exposing high school students to college-level material while earning credits is a worthy investment in both our students and future workforce,” Gov. Baker tweeted on Oct. 17, 2017.

During the four-hour opening event at Nichols, which also included a number of Bartlett teachers and administrators, the first-year students toured the campus and received Nichols identification cards for future visits.

The seniors—all of them college bound—focused on their college plans in a session with Nichols Vice President of Academic Affairs Mauri Pelto, Ph.D., and admissions counselor Tahkeya Black.

“It’s helpful to write down what colleges you want to apply to and the theme of your application essay,” Pelto counseled as he began the 75-minute workshop. “If you don’t start thinking about the essay now, it won’t be great.”

Bartlett senior Connor Brennan got that message.

“I have two ideas,” he revealed. “One of them is based on supporting a friend going through drug problems.”

The other, Brennan continued, would focus on the summer he spent in Germany with students from seven different countries.

“We were all at peace,” he recalled.

“They offer you a lot of opportunities, especially opening up the college classes,” Brennan said of the Honors Academy. “They really put kids on a head-start program to college.”

“They definitely challenge us to be leaders,” agreed fellow Bartlett senior Zoe Thomas.

Last year, students from several surrounding high schools, including Bartlett, Oxford, and Shepherd Hill Regional in Dudley, took Nichols courses in International Business and in Principles of Marketing. This fall, they can enroll in the College’s introductory political science class.

“The chance to try on college life and to think about what you’d like to do later is really wonderful,” Bartlett Superintendent Goguen noted. “I’ve been thrilled to learn about the program.”

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