Four Niagara University students participated in a college major exploration panel for high school students in the Niagara Falls City School District’s Early College/Smart Scholars program. The students, representing each of NU’s four colleges, addressed questions including how they chose their major, what careers aligned to their majors, and what experiences they have had at NU that prepared them for their future career.

Seventeen ninth and 10th graders attended the panel, which was presented virtually and facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Falzone, literacy outreach/ENL clinician for the university’s Rev. Joseph L. Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement. Panelists included:

  • NU Junior Hannah Enzinna, College of Education, 5-12 English
  • NU Junior Skyler Jessup, College of Hospitality & Tourism, Sports Management
  • NU Junior Hanna Sobieraski, College of Arts & Sciences, Criminology
  • NU Sophomore Avante Walker, College of Business, Integrated Business Management

A common theme throughout the conversation was that Niagara University provides students with confidence, clarity, and a sense of purpose through their academics and extracurricular opportunities on and off campus.

Through the Academic Exploration Program and a work study position at Dwyer Arena, Jessup was able to determine that sports management was ultimately the major he was interested in pursuing. “NU gives you so much opportunity to see what career might suit you best. Getting involved on campus will tie right back into your major,” he said. Jessup went on to explain how his roles as the president of the Sports Management Association and men’s club rugby, and as a lead community advisor in his residence hall have helped him develop leadership skills that will be needed in his future career.

Enzinna and Sobieraski stated that their experiences in high school helped lead to the majors that they chose in college, but their experiences at NU are helping to form their post-college career goals. “I help with outreach programs the Levesque Institute runs with the Niagara Falls City School District,” Enzinna explained. “I feel like I’m really prepared for a future career through these experiences.”

Walker highlighted how his time with the Office of Multicultural Affairs has helped lead him to an integrated management major and develop him into a leader on campus. “One thing I love about this school is that almost everything is student run,” he said. He went on to explain how his experiences as the marketing chair for both the NUSGA Class of 2023 and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, his involvement with the Black Student Union, and his internship with the Martin Group have helped shape his future. Walker is also actively involved as a student orientation leader. “You learn how to speak to new people, how to maneuver situations, and learn new skills to add to your resume,” he said of the experience.

The student panelists ended the discussion with the following advice. “It is ok to not know what you want to do; you will figure it out,” Sobieraski said. “There’s so much to help you to go in the direction that you want to.” She also advised the students to take college classes in high school to get a head start on their post-secondary education.

Enzinna encouraged the students to ask schools for scholarship applications, explaining that she will be graduating from Niagara University with virtually no debt.

Walker, a first-generation college-goer, encouraged the high school students to try different experiences to determine what they want to do in their future. “I would also say don’t slack on your grades. Make sure you’re organized in everything that you do in high school to prepare you for college,” he added.

Jessup seconded Walker’s tip of trying different experiences. “Get involved in anything you can, you’ll realize it is going to help direct you toward what you want to do. As long as you get involved, you will figure it out.”

Early College/Smart Scholars targets first-generation college-goers, engaging them in college and career exploration activities. Through a partnership with the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement and the Niagara Falls City School District, the students are provided academic opportunities and support services in order to achieve their career goals. Approximately 100 students participate in the program annually, with the opportunity to obtain between 24-30 Niagara University tuition-free credits prior to high school graduation. This program is funded by New York State Education Department- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For more information about Early College Smart Scholars, contact Dr. Elizabeth Falzone at eay@niagara.edu.

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