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In Some of New Jersey’s Most Vulnerable Communities, Rutgers Prepares Teens for College Coursework
For the last six months, Terence Williams, an Irvington High School junior, has been immersed in college level study of humanities.
He and two dozen fellow students in this economically struggling community near Newark have been reading poems by A.E. Housman, studying the works of Plato and writing essays on discrimination in contemporary society.
“This has changed my perspective in so many ways,” Williams said.
The students were participants in the Rutgers Early College Humanities Program, or REaCH, which offers high school students in historically underserved school districts the opportunity to take a credit-bearing college-level course in the humanities, taught at their own schools by professors and instructors who are experts in their respective disciplines.
In early June, about 86 students in Newark, Camden, Plainfield, Irvington and Carteret have participated in Reach graduation ceremonies to celebrate their successful completion of the program. Each student received three academic credits from Rutgers.
‘You are absolutely phenomenal,” Superintendent of Schools Ethel Hasty told the Irvington students at a June 12 ceremony. “And all you needed was opportunity.”
The program was started in 2008 by the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) at Rutgers-New Brunswick. More than 550 students have participated in REaCH, 85% of whom will have earned college credit from Rutgers. Besides the high schools, REaCH courses have also been presented in the Rutgers Future Scholars program in New Brunswick and Newark and the Rutgers Upward Bound program.
The program is overseen by Michael Beals, SAS Vice Dean of Undergraduate Education, and Martin Kempner, REaCH director.
This year was the first time Irvington students had participated in the program. At the graduation ceremony, Kempner praised them for having completed work as demanding and difficult as courses taken by first-year students at Rutgers.
“You balanced the demands of a college course with the demands of your regular high school work, and with the demands of your personal lives as well,” Kempner said. “You are successes.”
Williams, who is finishing his junior year, said his favorite subject was history. He and other students studied selections from the book Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999,
which contains letters from some of the most famous figures of the century as well as those from ordinary people.
“The letters are so personal – it was a very different way of studying history,” he said. “You can really understand what people were feeling and what they were going through at different points in the century.”