When Saif Shah first heard about the Future Ready Pathways program in ninth grade, he thought it sounded too good to be true.
“I thought there had to be a catch,” said Shah, now a junior at Cohoes High School.
But the promises of Future Ready Pathways (FRP) were real, and students are reaping the benefits. More than 20 juniors from the program’s first cohort are preparing to spend their senior year as full-time college students at Hudson Valley Community College.
FRP is a collaboration between the district, HVCC and UAlbany that provides year-round career mentoring and academic support to 25 students in each grade-level as they pursue a Regents diploma and 60 college credits before graduation.
“This is a tremendous opportunity that will have a profound impact on their lives,” said Mark Pascale, who is assisting the program in dual roles. Pascale is an academic advisor at HVCC and a Cohoes Board of Education member.
Up to this point, FRP students have taken their dual credit classes right at Cohoes High School. However, juniors in the program recently met with Pascale and school counselor Chris Fournier to map out schedules made up entirely of classes taken on the HVCC campus.
“The biggest piece of the transition is time management,” Fournier said. “They’ll be in the classroom a lot less, so they’ll have to make sure their free time is structured and productive.”
So far, structure and production hasn’t been an issue.
The 25 students in the program’s first cohort are on track to earn more than 750 credits by the end of the school year while carrying a combined 3.52 grade point average in their college-level classes. Ten students are maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
“These students are impressive. They are committed to working hard to achieve their goals to ensure they have bright futures,” Superintendent Jennifer Spring said. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
Thanks to the Smart Transfer Early College High School grant from the New York State Education Department, the classes are offered at no cost to students or their families.
“It’s free money,” said Shah, who expects to accrue 39 credits by the end of the school year.
As college tuition continues to rise, families are grateful to eliminate some of the costs of post-secondary education.
“That’s money we don’t have to spend. I love it,” Tim Lajeunesse said. His stepson Jordan Prouty is on track to bank 33 credits heading into his senior year. Jordan plans to pursue a career in physical therapy and was able to add an anatomy and physiology class to his fall schedule.
“[FRP] gave him a great work ethic,” Lajeunesse said. “He has tougher assignments and it helps him excel. He’s going to be better prepared for college and have a leg up on the other students.”
Prouty will be joined in anatomy and physiology by classmate Olivia Huneau, who is also on pace to have 33 credits and shows interest in the medical field.
“At first I was nervous about it because I didn’t know what to expect, but now I’m excited for the opportunity,” Olivia said.
“I think she’s ready for it,” said Olivia’s mother, Lori Huneau. “A lot of her work is done independently and that’s what college is all about. You have to be self-motivated.”
One of the challenges for program advisors is making sure that FRP seniors still have an opportunity to participate in sports, clubs and activities. Many of the students will travel by CDTA bus to and from the HVCC campus. They are creating their schedules so they can get back to Cohoes High School around dismissal time.
“We want them to still be part of the high school community. They’ll have dual citizenship,” Pascale said.
As organizers prepare to recruit 25 eighth graders to comprise FRP’s fourth cohort, they recognize the program has made great strides since its inception in 2017.
“It was ambitious. We didn’t have many dual-credit courses at the time,” Spring said.
“We wondered if it would work, starting them so young,” Pascale added. “But they worked hard and it’s been a really rewarding and enjoyable experience.”
According to school leaders, FRP students have demonstrated the ability to excel at college-level work while in high school and are well-positioned to successfully complete a four-year degree, or beyond.
“This is an outstanding group of young men and women,” Spring said. “We’ve established a sustainable model and these students are leading the way.”