Framingham State hosted the kickoff event for the “100 Males to College” program dedicated to providing area high school males with support “to and through college,” said Carlos Santiago, commissioner of the Massachusetts board of higher education.
On Feb. 26, one hundred high school students from Framingham High and Keefe Tech gathered in the McCarthy Center cafeteria to hear from the members of Massachusetts’s Higher Education Department and FSU administrators about how this program can benefit their future.
Sean Huddleston, chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement emphasized the importance of community he said “Everybody who goes to school here and everybody that works here would like to welcome you to what we call a framily, a Framingham State family.”
This program seeks to help “low-income Latino and African American men” graduate high school and earn a college degree.
According to Massachusetts Higher Education Department’s Cynthia Orellana, assistant commissioner for access and success strategies, many months had went into planning and setting up this event and is one of the most important days of their lives.
She said the program started in Springfield and Framingham is the second municipality to offer it. This has been made possible through the collaborative efforts of local high schools, colleges, universities, businesses and communities.
Orellana added, “If you look at the numbers in Massachusetts and nationally, our boys and young men are underperforming in every area starting in early years. … Many of our young men are not going to college and not graduating from college,” which is the reason for creating this program.
She said those who participate in this program are young men with courage, honesty and integrity.
Santiago emphasized the influence this group of males has on the commonwealth and its economic health.
He said one-third of people currently working in the commonwealth will be retiring within the next 10 years, and it is up to this generation to fulfill those roles as the highest educated group of people in Massachusetts.
Santiago said college had a major influence on his life. “It changed my life. … If college impacts you, it will impact your family and it will impact your communities.” He added, “Your success is our goal.”
All “gateway cities,” including Brockton, Lawrence and Holyoke have showed interest in this program according to Santiago.
President of MassBay Community College Yves Salomon-Fernandez addressed the students by telling them, “This is the best day of your life.”
Salomon-Fernandez said the Metro West College Planning Center located on the FSU campus is important to helping these students get into college and teach them to make financially sound decisions along the way.
She said these students represent courage and strength. “This is the beginning of your life and probably the most important day of your life. … You have overcome a lot of adversity to get to where you are, and we know the odds are stacked against you which is why we put this program together.”
Huddleston said “Not only is one of the most important things you have is your voice, but one of the most important things you have is your collective voice.”
He told the students that this program provides them with a “brotherhood” and a network of support.
Admissions Coordinator at MassBay Community College Steve Prudent said everyone has a “brand” built around how people treat one another and themselves.
Prudent said people should give as much effort as they can the first time around to defend their brand.
FSU President F. Javier Cevallos said, “You pledge to be successful. We pledge to be here for you so you can be successful.”
Senior Kayla Hopkins, an intern at the MetroWest College Planning Center, said, “I had never experienced so much youthful positive energy in one room before. All of these young men are choosing to make a change in their life. They are choosing to actively make a commitment to go on to higher education. No one is forcing them, they are doing this for themselves because they want to and in my opinion that’s the best part.”
[Editor’s Note: News Editor Mark Wadland contributed to this article.]