GLOVERSVILLE - Attention all incoming kindergarten students at Park Terrace Elementary School: When you graduate from high school in 2025, you could become a student at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
That's the message being sent in a new cooperative effort between the school and the college called FM Forward.
Parents and guardians of September's incoming kindergarten class will be encouraged to get involved in the plan.
Educators at Park Terrace and FMCC will oversee the FM Forward program by mentoring and tracking students' progress from their first day of kindergarten to their first day of college classes at the Johnstown-based campus. Eligible students' college tuition would be covered by grants, aid and the non-profit FM Foundation.
In an average year, about 275 students comprise the K-5 elementary school. This September, there will be two incoming kindergarten classes totalling 50 students. Typically, a graduating fifth-grade class is 50 total students, said Board of Education President Pete Semione.
Semione described Park Terrace as one of the district's smallest schools, and it has another distinction: It's one of the most socioeconomically challenged. Ninety-two percent of the students who attend the school are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
"We feel that in addition to supporting the districtwide effort to raise our graduation rate, this program would be the most efficient way to offer our students a way out of the cycle of poverty in which they could become ensnared," Park Terrace Principal Stephen Pavone said.
By exposing the children to multiple career possibilities early in their formal schooling and meeting with college students as part of the mentoring program, a connection to education and life success could take hold, Pavone said. The youngsters' parents will be invited to visit the college campus.
"As some research has noted that it could easily take 13 years to change the expectations that families have of their children, this program would begin with our 2012 kindergarten class," Pavone told Board of Education members on Monday. "In addition to partnering with FM for monthly literacy activities, we intend to raise funds so that we can offer students who started at Park Terrace in 2012 and graduated from that school's fifth-grade class access to the FM Foundation."
The FM Foundation program is a not-for-profit organization that supports the college and helps academically talented and needy college students, particulary first-generation college students.
Park Terrace fifth-grade reading teachers Laura Smeallie and Nancy Brown plus its Reading Coach Lisa Priolo informed the board of the program's details.
Fostering students' reading and comprehension skills by grades three and four is key to a student's long-term academic success, they said.
Jane Kelley, FM's vice president for student affairs, said the elementary students will meet with college students as the years pass, forming an understanding of the path from elementary school to college.
"I think it would be great to offer it to all of our students," board member Polly Peck said of the program.
Courses and programs at the college lead to associate degrees in 21st century high-demand fields such as computer and electrical technology.
Traditional manufacturing on which Gloversville's history was built is unlikely to again become the economic powerhouse it once was, said Interim School Superintendent Clifford Moses.
The Gloversville Enlarged School District's ontime high school graduation rate was 54 percent in 2011, a rate that will be a challenge for incoming Superintendent Michael B. Vanyo to improve during his tenure.
College President Dustin Swanger said if this first program is successful, other city school's can adopt it. At Park Terrace, each successive kindergarten class would become part of FM Forward.
"I'm very happy with the initiative that encourages young students that college can be in their future," Swanger said. "I think for many students, they don't hear that message and ?think that college is for other kids. FM is happy to support these efforts."