High Schoolers Jump-Start College through Partnership with St. John’s

High Schoolers Jump-Start College through Partnership with St. John’s
December 13, 2021

St. John’s University and The Lois and Richard Nicotra Early College Charter High School are in the first phase of an initiative designed to give students a head start in their college careers by earning up to 60 course credits at the University while they attend high school on Staten Island, NY.

“This partnership creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these high school students to take St. John’s courses on the University’s Staten Island campus while building a potential new enrollment pipeline for our institution,” said James O’Keefe, Ph.D., Vice Provost, Staten Island campus, and Professor of Criminal Justice at The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS). The Office of the Vice Provost in Staten Island created the program in collaboration with the Nicotra leadership.

Named in honor of Lois Nicotra ’77NDC, ’83GEd and Richard Nicotra ’76NDC, ’86HON, the Nicotra school’s mission is to provide an accelerated pathway to higher education and offer equal opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities, who are from low-income households and/or are English language learners.

“The program is a superb example of the lifelong commitment demonstrated by the Nicotras, who are two distinguished graduates of the Staten Island campus, to higher education and to St. John’s University,” Dr. O’Keefe said.

The first cohort of the precollege program, composed of 27 Nicotra students, began a four-semester course sequence in the Fall of 2021 under the tutelage of St. John’s faculty members.

“Our first semester is exceeding expectations. Professors are noting students’ enthusiasm and solid progress,” said Robert Fanuzzi, Ph.D., Director of Civic Engagement for the Staten Island campus and Associate Professor of English and American Studies at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He designed all phases of the precollege program to engage students and their families in the college process and enhance their readiness. Most of the student body is first generation.

“The students also build life skills with courses in critical thinking, business writing, and personal finance,” Dr. Fanuzzi said.

"I never thought that in my senior year of high school, I would be taking college courses,” said student Giovanni Selvaggio. “It's been amazing, and I will never forget this experience. I know when future generations of Nicotra students take part in this partnership, they will be grateful.”

Nicotra Principal Jessica Carnavas is pleased with the initiative. “We are so fortunate to have built this amazing partnership with St. John’s University, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds!”

The two years of classroom work provide Nicotra school students with foundational academic courses from CCPS, leading them toward introductory courses with a career emphasis on disciplines that include Criminal Justice, Business, and Education.

“This initiative, however, encompasses much more than offering college courses,” Dr. Fanuzzi said. “We provide an inclusive college experience for underrepresented students, based on the most compelling research regarding college readiness, as well as the best of St. John’s. For us, this is an equity partnership and a commitment to educational equity for Staten Islanders.” 

The program’s newly established Student Success Series, composed of special presentations and on-campus “field trips,” brings a wide range of University resources, programs, and offices, including the Writing Center, Career Services, the Loretto Memorial Library, and The School of Education Dean’s Scholars, directly to Nicotra students to prepare them for future campus life and increase their sense of belonging.

“The Nicotra students love the classes, enjoy meeting St. John’s students, and arrive on campus with smiles every day,” Dr. Fanuzzi said. “To me, that says it all.”