Early College/Smart Scholar participants from Niagara Falls High School enjoyed learning basketball techniques from Niagara University's women's basketball team.

Twenty-five 10th grade students from Niagara Falls High School spent the day on the Niagara University campus Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, as part of the Early College/Smart Scholars Program, a partnership between Niagara’s Rev. Joseph L. Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement and the Niagara Falls City School District to engage high school students in college/career exploration.

In addition to identifying possible college and career opportunities based on their interests and values, the students toured the campus and had lunch at the Russell J. Salvatore Dining Commons. A highlight of the day was meeting with the women’s basketball team. The visiting students learned basketball techniques and skills and heard from the players about what it takes to be a student-athlete, how they prepared to participate in collegiate sports during their time in high school, and the importance of good grades.

Dr. Elizabeth Yarussi, literacy outreach/TESOL clinician for the Levesque Institute, serves as the Early College/Smart Scholars Program liaison.  

Funded by the New York State Education Department—Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Early College/Smart Scholars program gives first-generation college students academic opportunities and support services in order to achieve their career goals. Approximately 100 students participate annually in the four-year program, which begins in ninth grade. Cohorts of 25 students visit the Niagara University campus four times each year, learning about academic majors, attending sporting events, finding out about career opportunities, and participating in a civic engagement camp. Beginning in their junior year, participants can obtain between 24-30 tuition-free college credits from Niagara University, the equivalent of one full-time academic year.

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