HCC's Gateway to College program, which in 2014 was ranked number one among all the Gateway programs in the United States, is the recipient of the first-ever Gateway Program Excellence Award.
The inaugural award from the Gateway to College National Network recognizes HCC's program for exceeding all four of the network's benchmarks for success in 2014-2015: GPA, one-year persistence, two-year persistence, and graduation rate.
"Recognitions like this make us feel more important and shiny," said coordinator Vivian Ostrowski at Gateway's June 1 graduation ceremony in the Leslie Phillips Theater, "but we know, we so know, that these numbers really mean that some kids with complicated and messy lives decided time and time again to show up and do their work."
Gateway to College is a dual enrollment program for students who have either left high school or are at risk for dropping out. Gateway students take classes at HCC, collecting transferable college credits while also earning their high school diplomas.
Since 2008, 204 Gateway students at HCC have graduated from high school and more than half have continued on to college; 29 were enrolled at HCC this spring; and HCC's Gateway graduates have so far earned 19 associate degrees and three bachelor's degrees.
Twenty students from six school districts earned their high school diplomas through HCC's Gateway program this spring. From Springfield: Korcan Atmaca, Amena Cooke, Melinda Diaz, Deikwon Duke, Ciara Garcia, Jamilee Gomez, Denisse Rivera, Mercedes Robare, Elmer Rodriguez and Jonte Toro; from Belchertown: Casey Beaudry, Christopher Chaffee, Shauna Driscoll, and Summer McLauglin; from Westfield: Emma Cowhey and Jacob Hartley; from Holyoke: Alexander Escalante; from Palmer: Bailey McDowell and Dylan Tallman; and from Agawam: Sarah Wyckoff.
Gateway to College was founded in Portland, Oregon, in 2000. There are now 41 Gateway programs in 21 states. The Spring 2014 report from the national Gateway network listed HCC's Gateway program number one in both persistence - fall to fall retention -- (87 percent compared to a network average of 53 percent); and graduation rate (80 percent compared to a 27 percent network average).
"Holyoke's program is poised to build on its successes and can serve as an example for the rest of our network," Emily Froimson, president of the Gateway national network wrote in congratulatory letter to Ostrowski. "You have not simply made a difference for students in Holyoke, Massachusetts; the work that your school district and college partnership has accomplished is a model for how we solve these persistent problems as a nation."
Ostrowski will collect the award on behalf of HCC at the Gateway to College National Network Peer Learning Conference in Minneapolis June 28.
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Left) Gateway to College student Elmer Rodriguez accepts his graduation certificate from program coordinator Vivian Ostrowski. (Right) New Gateway to College graduate Summer McLaughlin of Belchertown receives a hug after the June 1 ceremony. (Thumbnail) Ciara Garcia, from Springfield, graduated from HCC's Gateway to College program June 1.