Students soon will be invited to learn about life on campus

HOPEWELL — In a few weeks, a group of juniors at a local high school will be invited to join a new program to learn about what life is really like on a college campus.

The after-school meetings at Canandaigua Academy will cover practical topics like how to manage financial aid and the importance of spending time with an academic adviser. But the focus also will be on things the students are less likely to learn about in a guidance counselor’s office — for instance, how to juggle the new freedom and added responsibilities and, for commuters, the importance of arriving early to scout a parking spot in time for class.

Called College 101, the program is the result of an initiative at Finger Lakes Community College in which faculty members have partnered with high school teachers. The Regional Education Continuum is aimed at better preparing high school graduates for the rigors of college, inside and outside the classroom.

“We wanted to put high school teachers and college professors at the same table to have meaningful conversations about our experiences with students,” said Debora Ortloff, interim director of institutional effectiveness at FLCC. “We wanted to break down misconceptions and learn together new ways, big and small, to improve student readiness.”

Students who arrive better prepared for college are less likely to need remedial courses, or worse, drop out.

Ortloff and FLCC colleague Jacqueline Tiermini, assistant professor of humanities, started the program at FLCC in 2015 with Canandaigua Academy as its pilot. High school teachers were paired with faculty in similar disciplines. They sat in on each other’s classes, had candid conversations about their respective challenges and perceptions, and came together for a series of workshops.

“It was really powerful,” said Christine Crater, a math teacher at Canandaigua Academy. “We gained a lot of insight from it. We thought we’d be more concerned about the vertical alignment of course content from high school to college, but our focus shifted and it became much more about readiness, maturity, and responsibility — those soft-skills.”

Several months in, six additional school districts joined the partnership: Naples, Penn Yan, Victor, Newark, Marcus Whitman and Phelps-Clifton Springs. Teachers from the Romulus, Seneca Falls, South Seneca, and Waterloo high schools have since signed on, starting with a workshop at FLCC’s Geneva Campus Center in late October.

The expansion was made possible with the help of a $57,408 grant from the Chicago-based William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, which promotes initiatives in human services, education, and healthcare and medical research.

The education continuum was launched with funding earmarked by the college Board of Trustees for proposals by college employees that advanced the college’s strategic plan — for instance, bolstering enrollment and student completion.

“The Regional Education Continuum ties directly to the strategic plan and has offered a unique solution to a very common problem,” said Ortloff. “College and career readiness have gained more attention in recent years but are not new concepts. High school and college teachers have long desired a solution to this very perplexing problem. An opportunity for teachers from various institutions and various levels of education to actually sit down at the same table and work toward a common goal is something that rarely happens but should be happening much more.”

If funding continues, Tiermini and Ortloff hope to add participants from all 26 school districts in the college’s service area of Ontario, Wayne, Yates and Seneca counties.

“This would be a tremendous opportunity,” said Tiermini. “Having so many colleagues from our service area school districts conversing with each other and working on the same goal for our students demonstrates the commitment of this continuum. Our participants would not only work on small changes that can be made within their own classrooms, but changes that could evolve into districtwide and, perhaps, truly regional educational initiatives.”


Learn more

For more information about the Regional Education Continuum program at FLCC, contact Jacqueline Tiermini at 585-785-1557 or