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30,000 Degrees: A Unification of Civic Purpose

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

To help more of the borough’s students to prepare for success in college, St. John’s University’s Staten Island campus has partnered with Wagner College and the College of Staten Island to create the 30,000 Degree Initiative.

Officials from all three colleges gathered at a special reception on November 6 to celebrate the effort, which aims to support a college-going culture that increases students’ attainment of a college degree by providing educational mentoring with the pre-K through 16 educational pipeline.

The goal of the effort is to raise the number of Staten Island students who obtain a baccalaureate degree to 30,000 by the year 2025. With nearly 75% of Staten Islanders bypassing higher education, the borough ranks second to last in college-educated residents within New York City. 

“The largest barrier so many young Staten Islanders face today is that they are not even thinking about the possibility of attending college, so the first objective is to effectively get attending college on their radar screen,” said James O’Keefe, Ph.D., vice provost, Staten Island campus. 

“Since launching 30,000 Degrees, we have brought together the principals of our four anchor high schools with faculty and administrators from Wagner College, the College of Staten Island, and the Staten Island campus of St. John’s University,” said Crystal Montalvo ’07CPS, ’10G, project manager of 30,000 Degrees. “It’s our effort to leverage existing college-readiness programs, under one model, with measurable results and new milestone activities.”

Students at New Dorp High School, Ralph McKee High School, Port Richmond High School, and Staten Island Technical High School will receive enhanced support for STEM programs, AP courses, and SAT/ACT prep. Additionally, they will be offered the opportunity of campus visits.

“The 30,000 Degrees Initiative here on Staten Island strongly correlates with the St. John’s mission, and I don’t think any other borough in the city could attempt this project,” said O’Keefe. “Clearly, an emerging Staten Island needs an educated work force, and an educated electorate, to flourish in the coming years, and the Staten Island campus has been an essential part of the higher education fabric around here for a very long time.”

During the November 6 reception, four high school students were awarded scholarship money in a competition to create the initiative’s official logo.  The academic leaders of St. John’s, Wagner, and College of Staten Island also thanked Northfield Bank Foundation for their support of the 30000 Degrees initiative.  “We were awarded funding from the Northfield Bank Foundation to sustain our efforts for the coming year, when we will expand this work to middle and primary schools,” said Montalvo.

Robert Fanuzzi, Ph.D., associate provost for academic affairs and director of civic engagement and public programs at the Staten Island campus, said that as a Catholic institution, St. John’s has a social responsibility to narrow the gap of inequality that is seen in today’s society. “It’s been a great learning experience for St. John’s to figure out where the next generation of college students are coming from and what challenges they face,” he said. ”We’re finding out exactly what keeps students from succeeding in higher education.”