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College Summit boosts preparedness to pursue learning opportunities

Long before President Obama popularized talking about college access for all, Keith Frome was making it happen one student at a time.

Frome, of Amherst, co-founded College Summit, which for years has been equipping high school students with the tools they need to get into college.

"We're trying to build a college-going culture in high schools who have never had it before," said Frome, former headmaster of Elmwood Franklin School.

Each summer, 3,000 high school juniors from 175 high schools around the nation are selected for the College Summit workshops held on 60 U.S. college campuses, including Daemen College in Snyder, the only Western New York institution partnered with the Washington-based nonprofit.

Participants, from low-income families, often are average students typically overlooked by colleges. But they have potential.

They spend a few days on one of the campuses, where they are guided through the complex process of getting into college -- how and where to apply, writing the essay, filing for financial aid.

Four days of workshops for 50 students started Thursday at Daemen.

"It's been an interesting experience," said Kenny Joseph, a junior from Park East High School in the Bronx. "I've learned a lot since I've been here."

No area high schools are involved in the program -- which bears some expense -- but interest is growing.

College Summit -- co-founded by Frome and a friend in 1993 at a teen center in the basement of a low-income housing project in Washington, D.C -- has been getting a lot more attention since Obama made access to higher education a top priority, Frome said.

In fact, Obama donated a portion of his Nobel Peace Prize money to College Summit, which also received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to add components of the program to the curricula of participating high schools.

Lamis Abdul-Waheed, 16, a junior from Brooklyn, always planned to attend college, but coming to Daemen for the workshops has expanded her horizons when looking for a school.

The same goes for Joseph, 18.

"I don't know where I want to go, and being here, it's opened my eyes," he said. "Maybe I can go farther than a [City University of New York] school."

This is the fourth straight year that Daemen has participated in College Summit, and it gets a chance not only to recruit students, but also to diversify its campus.

Ten students who attended the workshops at Daemen the past four years are now enrolled in the college, said Frank Williams, Daemen's dean of admissions.

Nationally, nearly 80 percent of students who go through College Summit end up enrolling at some college, Frome added.

That includes Michael Ferron.

The 18-year-old from Brooklyn attended College Summit at Daemen in 2008 and just completed his freshman year at the school.

"It allowed me to realize I had the ability to go to college," said Ferron, who returned to the workshops this summer as an alumni leader.


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