ROSELLE, NJ — Kean University will be offering a new program beginning this summer for fall enrollment, the Kean Scholar Academy, a dual-enrollment initiative created by university President Lamont O. Repollet.
This program will prepare selected high school students for college by bringing them on campus to earn as many as 12 to 15 college credits in their selected major, starting in the ninth grade. It will also provide internships, mentoring, social-emotional learning activities and counseling. Students will also have the opportunity to work with municipal and business community members to research, investigate and provide solutions to issues within their communities.
Repollet, a former New Jersey education commissioner, school superintendent and principal, proposed the idea at a roundtable meeting with K-12 school leaders and university officials, who have since worked to build the academy program.
“The Kean Scholar Academy offers unique opportunities for students who may not otherwise have them,” Repollet said in a press release on Wednesday, March 24. “That’s what Kean is all about — offering a world-class education and helping students to grow and develop in ways they often don’t expect. This will accelerate the pace of their education. We truly want to give our scholars the college experience that no other dual-enrollment program offers.”
Special assistant to Repollet and the Executive Director of Kean Scholar Academy Jason Lester echoed the sentiment.
“This has stirred a lot of excitement. It’s being well received by all the parents we’ve been talking to in these communities.” he said in the same press release. “The students’ home school districts will pay their tuition using grants and federal funding earmarked for programs to accelerate student access. Kean will provide technology, some transportation and other support.”
Students from at least 10 school districts, in Union, Essex, Middlesex and Passaic counties, will be chosen for the program by their districts. Roselle Public School District is one of those districts, and incoming freshmen at Abraham Clark High School will now have the opportunity to participate in this program.
“At the Roselle Public School District, we are always looking for new ways to bring opportunities to our students,” Superintendent of Roselle Public Schools Nathan L. Fisher said on Friday, March 19. “This program is not just about students receiving college credits while still in high school; it’s also about being ready for college and being ready for success in the future.
“The road to higher education in minority communities is difficult, so this program is an incredible opportunity for our qualified students,” he continued. “This precollege program will help to provide our students with not only college credits, but with university mentors prepared to provide academic and career guidance along with individual and group counseling.”
“Attending a dual-enrollment precollege program definitely increases the likelihood of students attending college,” said Abraham Clark High School Principal Terry Shareef on Friday, March 19. “The unknown is always a bit uncomfortable, especially for students who may be first-generation college bound. Such programs as the Kean scholars program give students an advantage in not only building foundational skills, but also in preparing them for some of what they can expect in their freshman year of college, with regard to rigor and course expectations. Students get a sense of the independence of college life, while still receiving that much-needed support at home and in school.”
According to Kean, the school districts selected so far to take part in addition to Roselle are Union, Hillside, Newark, Passaic, South Orange–Maplewood, Plainfield, Orange, East Orange and Carteret.
In Roselle, only students attending Abraham Clark High School — the only public high school in the borough — are eligible.
“This is a partnership directly between the Roselle Public School District and Kean University, so that’s why only ACHS students are eligible,” Fisher said. “Private schools may have similar programs, but it would be up to the individual institution to set up the partnership.”
According to Kean University, each student will have an individualized education plan based on academic interests. While there, students will also get a taste of life on a college campus. Academy students will start on campus once per week for class and attend a second session through synchronous in-person and virtual learning. The first group of 60 to 120 academy students will start with a four-week orientation on Kean’s Union and Skylands campuses, and virtually. They will also have twice-monthly team-building activities on Saturdays.
Students will be chosen for the program by their districts, based on criteria such as grades, school attendance, involvement and commitment to excel.
“In order to be eligible, students must have an average of 85 percent in all classes,” Fisher said, adding that a grade-point average of 3.5 or better; a score of 3 or ideally 4 on the standardized exam — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers/NJ Student Learning Assessments — in English language arts and mathematics or other district-specific assessment equivalent; 10 or fewer combined absences and tardies to school; and at least one extracurricular program, club or sport is preferred. An application and district input forms must be completed as part of the process. There is no test for eligibility.
“Grace Wilday Junior High School recently hosted a parent information session for rising ninth-graders to begin the process to identify eligible students,” Fisher said.
A Class of 1999 alumnus of Kean University, Fisher added that he understands the university’s commitment to academic excellence.
“I am honored and excited that our district is just one of 10 that has partnered with such a well-known, and local, university on this program,” said the superintendent. “Our students and what education looks like for them in the future is my top priority, and this program is just another way our scholars can get ahead.”
Shareef agreed with Fisher about the program, saying it was a wonderful opportunity and a game-changer for their scholars.
“Both Roselle Public Schools overall and Abraham Clark High School specifically have experienced a leader shift,” he said. “As the new superintendent, Dr. Fisher has made his vision and goals very clear, and the selection of a new high school administration team … is directly aligned with Superintendent Fisher’s vision to ensure that our scholars are receiving a quality learning experience that prepares them for college, career and work. … We could not be more delighted that Kean University has partnered with us to bring this opportunity to our community. It is all so very exciting.”
Lester said he hoped academy students ultimately choose to complete their degrees at Kean.
“I’m looking not only for a 100 percent graduation rate from high school. I want a 100 percent graduation rate when they come to Kean University,” Lester said in the press release. “Once they’re Kean Scholar Academy members, they’re members for life.”