Business law

College feels familiar to first-year students at UML



by Ed Brennin

High school students getting a head start on their college credits is nothing new. In fact, Advanced Placement tests have been around since the 1960s.

But UMass Commonwealth Collegiate Academy (CCA), an early college pilot program launched last fall at UMass Lowell and UMass Dartmouth, offers students more than just credits on their college transcript.

The program offers free college-level courses jointly taught by college and high school faculty, giving high school students and seniors an idea of ​​what to expect from professors. During the summer, students can experience campus living.

Two young men posing for a photo outside

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Business major Eduardo Benfica, left, and psychology major Isaiah Bautista are among 26 first-year UML students who got the jump on their degrees through UMass Commonwealth Collegiate Academy.

More than 100 students from four high schools in the area — Billerica, Drakcott, Methuen and Greater Lowell Tech — earned college credits through CCA last year. Of these students, 26 will be commencing undergraduate studies at UMass Lowell this fall.

Eduardo Benfica, a graduate of Greater Lowell University, is one of them. A first-generation undergraduate student from Brazil, Benfica already has two courses (six credits) under his belt as he begins his pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in a job.

“UMass Lowell was an option I was considering to go to college, and CCA helped me make my decision,” says Benfica. “It was a good opportunity for me to get a sense of what the school is like.”

Funded by a $330,000 grant from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation and a revolving incubator grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, CCA offers free distance courses to students directly in high school classrooms—eliminating the need for travel and thus expanding access. The program is recommended to students by their high school teachers.

A woman gesturing with her hands while speaking to students

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Cheryl Llewellyn, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology, teaches the Social Problems course to CCA students in the UPRISE summer program.

“We want to remove all barriers, especially for students who don’t normally go to college,” he says. Francine CostonAssociate Director of UML Early College Initiatives.

Approximately a dozen UML faculty members teach CCA courses in ethics, economics, business law, environmental sciences, accounting, and forensics, mostly online but sometimes in person in high schools.

Karen Spoonthat accounting Assistant faculty member at Manning College of Business, co-taught financial accounting at Billerica High School. She says that besides saving students money, the program is a valuable way for them to explore their interests and build a strong academic foundation.

“Students need a great deal of adjustments and learning to do in their first semester in college,” says Spoon, who teaches the course in person when she can. “Through this programme, they gain a level of comfort and confidence.”

Over the summer, 28 CCA students got a taste of campus life by staying in University Suites for the first two weeks of a four-week program called Understanding Power, Resisting Injustice, Summer Experience, or Uprising.

Two young men play Connect Four outdoors while two others look on

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Freshman psychology major Isaias Bautista, second from left, plays Connect 4 with Snicker Medrano, a senior at Greater Lowell Tech, during a summer cooking trip on South Campus to celebrate the completion of the UPRISE program.

Part of the UML launch! Summer programsUPRISE included a three-credit course on social problems, taught by the Chair and Assistant of the Department of Sociology. prof Cheryl Llewellyn and director of the Labor Education Program Elizabeth Pelleritowhich covered topics such as the climate crisis, cyberbullying, and union organizing.

“Not many students take sociology modules through dual enrollment, and if they do, it is usually an introduction to sociology, not a course like social problems,” says the Director of Consulting Operations, Technology and Events. Justin Gerstenfeldwho hopes UPRISE will become a “distinguished summer experience for high school students.”

While on campus, students went kayaking at the UML Bellegarde Boathouse, played pickle ball at the Campus Recreation Center and enjoyed a cookout at South Campus.

“It’s been fun living on campus and seeing what it’s like to be in a dormitory,” says Emily Kiefer, a senior Lowell Tech graduate who plans to attend Middlesex Community College before transferring to UML to study studio art. “I always wanted to go to university and (CCA) gave me a big boost. It made me want to go to college more and learn different things.

A student looks at a piece of paper while standing in front of several other seated students

Image via Ed Brennin

UMass Commonwealth Collegiate Academy students exchange ideas during the UPRISE Summer Program on campus.

UML partnerships are expanding this fall to Woburn and Revere High Schools, and Coston expects to enroll up to 200 students.

“The hope is that students can earn up to 30 credits by the time they graduate high school, giving them one year of college credit under their belt,” says Coston, who notes that CCA is particularly useful for first-generation colleges. students and those from underrepresented communities.

Statewide, the program is expected to expand to UMass Amherst and UMass Boston and eventually serve up to 25,000 students.

Snicker Medrano, who is entering his senior year at Greater Lowell Tech, plans to continue earning college credits through CCA before studying mechanical engineering at UML.

“UMass Lowell is my first choice, and now, by doing all the CCA classes, it enhances that,” says Medrano. “I feel like I got a great opportunity.”


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