After School Program Gives Students A Taste Of The College Life

HHS students find success in new "Prep For College" after school program.

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Prep for College is an after school program at Holyoke High School where HHS students work with UMass graduate students and professors to address problems in their school and work to fix them. The program offers HHS students the opportunities to learn research skills, make a research video on a problem at their school, present their findings, learn video and audio production skills for their video, and visit local colleges.

“It’s important for students at Holyoke High to be able to address issues at their school that are important to them. It is great that this group can provide a space for that to happen,” Dani O’Brien, an UMass graduate researcher, told The Herald.

The group recently had their first college visit of the year to UMass Amherst. Their trip consisted of a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) workshop, sitting in on the college class of Social Diversity in Education, visiting a college dorm, and having dinner in the Franklin dining hall. O’Brien, an UMass graduate student researcher, and Dr. Antonio Nieves Martinez, a professor at UMass, are two of the program advisors who supervised the trip. Dr. Korina Jocson, an UMass professor, also helps run the after-school program.

During the YPAR workshop, the students learned about critical research. They discussed what it means to be a researcher and how to conduct research. They talked about ways to come up with research questions, collect data, access information, conduct interviews, have focus groups, run surveys, analyze data, and present research.

One of the supervisors, Dr. Martinez, runs the class Social Diversity in Education, which the group got to sit in on. Discussions in the class centered around the topics of white supremacy, meritocracy, and the saying, “We are all just human.”

The group also gets a taste of the way college classes can be run. One of the college students was kind enough to show the HHS students his college dorm after the class ended.

“It was great to be able to attend a college class and it was cool that they discussed and ran their class some of the same ways that our Prep for College group is run. One thing I was surprised about was how small college dorms can be!” Shannalynn Santos ’16, told The Herald.

Wrapping up their day was an activity favored by many of the students, having dinner in the Franklin dining hall. The group plans to take more college visits during the 2015-2016 school year.

The group is currently working on coming up with possible research topics for their project.  Last year, the group’s project focused on stereotypes. The group has been discussing what they would like to change about their school and recently issued a survey to HHS students and teachers to get their opinions too.

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