High school students get a taste of college in Lehigh classes

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Before heading off to college, local high school seniors are given the opportunity to take on-campus college classes at Lehigh, free of charge, courtesy of the Office of Academic Outreach and Lehigh Valley’s High School Scholars program.

The program gives out annual scholarships to students from Bethlehem high schools to receive college credit without taking Advanced Placement courses. Angela Scott Ferencin, the program director of the Community Education Initiative in the Center for Community Engagement and former director of the Office of Academic Outreach, has overseen this program for years.

Students are nominated by their schools to participate in this program.

“They are admissible to Lehigh and highly qualified students,” Ferencin said. “They show great promise for higher education, and show an interest in taking classes at Lehigh.”

However, Ferencin said even if a student is nominated by their school, they then have to apply to Lehigh and be accepted into the course they wish to enroll in. When students are accepted, they will go through a specially tailored orientation organized by Ferencin and other staff members before the semester starts.

During the orientation period, staff members from across campus introduce themselves to the students. Students learn about campus safety, the first-year experience and how to purchase textbooks.

“I must applaud Lehigh for supporting young people in this way,” Ferencin said. “Increasing college access for high school students, some of who are underrepresented, is a great way for students to see college from a different perspective. It increases their college success. Plus, we also have the opportunity to highlight and showcase our campus. It’s a win-win.”

Seinn Wai, a senior at Liberty High School, said Lehigh has provided her with the opportunity to explore an individualized learning approach.

“I like how everyone takes advantage of their time here,” Wai said. “It’s a more individualized way of learning, and the professors do a great job of outlining what’s going on in class, and then send us home with the appropriate material. It’s not like sitting in a high school classroom where you’re forced to do the same class activities all day.”

Wai said attending Lehigh has helped her decide what she’s looking for in a college. She took classes at Moravian College her first semester of her senior year. However, considering her interest in engineering, Moravian wasn’t the right fit for her. She said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a class at Lehigh and learn more about its engineering and applied sciences department.

Jenna Fromer, senior at Liberty High School, smiles on Friday, April 7, 2017, at the E.W.F.M. lounge. According to Fromer, there are positives and benefits of taking classes at Lehigh University. (Amber Parvaiz/B&W Staff)

Jenna Fromer, a senior at Moravian Academy, found her transition onto a college campus to be seamless.

“I honestly love how inclusive Lehigh is,” Fromer said. “The professors are all really nice, and there are a couple of other girls from my high school who are taking the same class as me. With or without them, I never feel alone on campus.”

Fromer is taking Principles of Economics with professor Frank Gunter. She prefers the caliber of Gunter’s syllabus to the senior economics class offered at her high school.

Like Wai, Fromer’s experience at Lehigh has provided her with a better of idea of what she’s looking for in a college. Although she enjoys the material of her class at Lehigh, she doesn’t like being in a big lecture hall.

“Even though some say big lecture halls are a part of the college experience, they are just not for me,” Fromer said.

Fromer plans to attend Tufts University beginning in the 2017 fall semester.

Professor Mark Orrs smiles on Friday, April 7, 2017, in Wilbur Powerhouse. Orrs believes the high school students have achieved collegial success in his classes. (Amber Parvaiz/B&W Staff)

Professor Mark Orrs, the director of the sustainable development department, has had high school students enroll in his classes for a few years now.

“The high school students I’ve taught are self-motivated,” Orrs said. “They are easily some of my best students, and they interact very well with their classmates. I have seen them go on to pursue great higher education.”

Although Orrs has yet to have one of his students attend Lehigh, he said he’s had students go on to Georgia Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University for engineering.

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