Partnership between Catholic high schools and Le Moyne College puts students on the college track
By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
After four years at Bishop Grimes Prep in Syracuse, 2012 graduates Tyler Santy, Rossella Mingolelli and Dominick Salamida have traded in their navy blue polos and khakis for a new kind of school uniform: Le Moyne College t-shirts.
The three former Cobras have just started as freshmen at Le Moyne, but their education at the college began back when they were rising sophomores at Grimes. Santy, Mingolelli and Salamida were among the first group of students to participate in an initiative between Le Moyne and the three Catholic high schools in Syracuse — Bishop Grimes Prep, Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School and Christian Brothers Academy — called the Loyola Institute at Le Moyne College. Through the program, students take college-level courses at Le Moyne while still in high school, earning themselves reduced-cost, transferable college credits; higher education experience; and potential Le Moyne scholarships along the way.
The partnership between the college and the schools was envisioned as “a vehicle that would strengthen our students’ academics, prepare them for the demands of college and enhance Catholic identity,” said former Assistant Superintendent of Catholic Schools Father Charles Vavonese, who helped start the program. The benefits offered by such a partnership would help to make the Catholic education available at both the high schools and the college more attractive to potential students, he added.
Le Moyne, collaborating with the schools, developed a specialized three-year program of study tailored to give eligible students “an opportunity to take college-level courses and to acclimate to college while still in high school,” said Dennis DePerro, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Le Moyne.
Students can apply to the Loyola Institute at the end of their freshman or sophomore years. To be eligible, they must have at least an 85 academic average at their home schools and maintain that average throughout their time in the program, said Pete Headd, Associate Director of the Center for Continuing Education at Le Moyne. Participation in school or community activities is also a plus.
Once accepted, students enroll in a selection of credit-bearing courses offered on the campus during summer sessions. Classes range from English and communications to biology and chemistry; optional non-credit courses in writing and math skills are also available. Students must complete one course by the beginning of 11th grade and one to two additional courses by the beginning of 12th grade. Come senior year, students must complete one to two more courses during the fall or spring semesters. Students who successfully complete the program — they must maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average — will be able to start college with a full semester of credits already under their belts.
That head start on college work attracted Santy to the Loyola Institute. “Once I realized I could get four college courses done before I even went to college, I said, ‘Yes, this is definitely for me,’” he recalled.
Santy, Mingolelli and Salamida, along with about 30 other students from the three Catholic high schools, started their Loyola Institute coursework the summer before 10th grade. There were some nerves initially.
“I’ll admit it was somewhat overwhelming walking onto campus that first time and seeing all the older students,” Mingolelli said. Santy, who was just 14 at the time, recalled feeling awkward about getting dropped off on campus by his parents.
Those nerves disappeared, though, with their first class, a non-credit writing skills course taught by Dr. Ann Ryan that Salamida called “the greatest class I’ve ever taken.”
“That was a great course to take as an introduction to college work and college professors,” Santy agreed. “Dr. Ryan was a great teacher and she taught us how to really write an essay — how to get away from that ‘five paragraph’ format and just write. That class helped my writing so much, which helped me through the rest of high school and my other Loyola courses.”
Over the next three years, the students took classes from calculus to history, learning the subjects as well as the college ropes along the way. They were pleased to discover that their college peers were serious about their studies and that the professors treated them like adults. “No one is forcing you to be here,” Salamida said. “You’re here because you want to be. It’s a different kind of atmosphere.”
They did well in and generally enjoyed their classes, but it wasn’t always easy to balance the demands of the Loyola Institute with high school studies, work and activities, especially by senior year.
“In that last semester, balancing what was expected of me in my course got a little bit hard,” Mingolelli said. “You have to show up, participate, do your reading, do your assignments, write your essays and your research papers. For me, I wanted to finish out the program strong and really strive to do the best that I could. It got tough.”
That balancing act can be difficult for many students, Headd said. “Things like work and sports and finding courses of interest that fit their schedules can end up being conflicts for many students, especially during the senior year when they’re taking classes during the regular semesters,” he said. Academics play a role sometimes as well. “Some, not all, high school students are prepared for this level of study. If you’re not doing well, we’re going to suggest it’s maybe a little too early for you to be doing coursework here,” Headd said. For these reasons, some students ultimately end up leaving the program; enrollment trends to date show that about one-half to one-third of students who start the Loyola Institute program fully complete it, Headd said. Santy, Mingolelli and Salamida were three of 12 students in their age cohort who completed the program.
In addition to the educational benefits, the Loyola Institute also offers significant financial benefits to students. Courses cost $450, 75 percent off the standard cost, according to Headd. “We’re offering students four courses for, essentially, the price they’d pay for one,” he said.
The framework of the Loyola Institute also provides students with “some additional incentive — through scholarships and financial aid — to continue their education after high school at a Catholic Jesuit college,” DePerro added. Syracuse Catholic Schools Scholarships worth $11,000 per year are given to all students accepted to Le Moyne who successfully complete the Loyola Institute coursework, score above 1050 on their SATs or above 22 on their ACTs and remain in good academic standing. Full-tuition Simon Le Moyne Scholarships are offered to one student from each of the three Catholic high schools who completes the Loyola Institute program, has a 95 academic average in high school, scores above 1300 on the SAT or 29 on the ACT and keeps a 3.25 GPA at Le Moyne.
Santy, who was salutatorian of his graduating class, is an inaugural recipient of a Simon Le Moyne Scholarship. He was debating between accepting at Le Moyne or another school — two of eight schools he applied to — but Le Moyne’s research opportunities, coupled with the generous scholarship, ultimately won the physics major over. His financial aid is allowing him to afford living on campus, he said. Mingolelli and Salamida, who are commuters, said that their Syracuse Catholic Schools Scholarships are also a huge help to them and their families as they work to pay for college.
Not all students in the Loyola Institute choose to enroll at Le Moyne after graduating high school, however. Headd said that’s okay.
“Our mission is to get young people in the Catholic schools ready for college, make it affordable and for them to have success when they get there, whether it’s on Salt Springs Road or not,” he said.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools Christopher Mominey said he is grateful to the college for that support and for its continuing partnership with the schools.
“Thanks to the vision of Father Vavonese and the College several years back, we are able to offer parents and students at our local Catholic high schools a unique opportunity. This is a tremendous value-added program that you can’t find anywhere else. Believe me, parents of 4th and 5th graders in our elementary schools are talking about this program already!”
With classes just beginning, Santy, Mingolelli and Salamida feel their “official” college careers are off to great starts. Their courses are interesting and they’re already giving a little thought to how they’ll use the leeway their pre-college studies will afford them — Santy wants to take a Latin elective, and Mingolelli and Salamida are considering internships. They’ve been hanging out together in Santy’s dorm room and catching up with other friends on campus, including Grimes grads and acquaintances made through the Loyola Institute. So far, they’re not struggling to adjust to college life on Salt Springs Road — they’re excited to be wholly part of it.
“The first day, we weren’t saying, ‘Oh no, college,’” Santy said. “It was just, ‘Okay, back to school!’”
For more information about the Loyola Institute at Le Moyne College, visit www.lemoyne.edu.