When East Syracuse Minoa (ESM) Schools Superintendent Dr. Donna DeSiato analyzes the benefits of the OCC Advantage program she’s reminded of one of the most popular plays in history. “I had the privilege of seeing Hamilton on Broadway. Lin-Manuel Miranda who plays Hamilton is well recognized for a famous line in a song which says, ‘I am not going to miss my shot.’ It’s important that our freshmen have this opportunity and we want to make sure they do not miss their shot.”
DeSiato, who is both an Onondaga Community College alumna and a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, shared those comments with the ESM school community November 29 as it celebrated joining OCC Advantage, a new and unique college-readiness and scholarship program. Students who earn a “C” average and show improvement while achieving other benchmarks will be eligible to attend OCC tuition-free.
ESM is the second school district to become part of OCC Advantage, joining Solvay which held its own celebration November 9. “We’re educating our students and our families about the opportunity this program represents because it’s amazing. We’re thrilled to be a part of it,” said Solvay Schools Superintendent Lawrence Wright.
Students in Solvay’s and ESM’s freshman class will be the first to benefit from OCC Advantage. The program contains three main components:
- Performance – Students need to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and show gradual improvement throughout high school.
- Attendance – Students will be required to meet attendance goals throughout their four years at ESM and Solvay.
- Community Service – Students will perform community service as part of the OCC Advantage program. “We want students to understand that education in life is about going beyond yourself. We’re using community service through the high schools for students to reflect on their skills, their interests, their community and see ways they can exercise the education they have already. It’s about what the student gets through reflection in service. So many students come to college undecided. If you’re undecided you can waste time and money. Those are precious commodities,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill.
The college-readiness program will also include helping students learn the types of behaviors that will lead to success both during their years in high school and in college. Upon graduation from Solvay and ESM each member of the Class of 2020 who has successfully completed the program will have the opportunity to attend OCC tuition-free. Once enrolled in the College students will have two years to complete work toward an associate degree or certificate, preparing them for a career or transfer to a four-year institution. During their time on campus students must continue to meet minimum grade point average requirements and perform community service.
“This initiative provides access and opportunity to families which otherwise may not be able to afford it,” said Wright. “We have very capable students. We graduate over 90% of them. The majority will go onto college but the majority of them will also struggle to pay for it. That’s a big part of why this relationship is so special.”