URI bridging GAP for students for 20 years

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. –March 26, 2008 — Chris Palencia, a junior at Rogers High School in Newport, isn’t sure what he wants to study in college. “He can study anything he wants,” says his father Luis of his second oldest child. “He’s a bright boy.” His mother, Rosa, smiles.

Luis and Rosa are from Guatemala. Neither parent had the opportunity to go to college. “It’s every parent’s dream that children do better than their parents,” Luis confides.

Chris is on the right track. He is one of 147 high school students—sophomores and juniors– from seven urban high schools who signed a contract with the University of Rhode Island’s Guaranteed Admissions Program/Talent Development (GAP/TD) this month at its Feinstein Providence Campus. It was the largest group of students to sign the contract since the program began 20 years ago.

GAP/TD provides URI with a way to recruit and encourage students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some of the students come from families newly arrived in the country. Most are the first in their families to consider college as an option.

The students sign the contract, agreeing to take college preparatory courses, maintain a B- average, participate in GAP/TD summer programs and after school workshops, take college tours, and meet all URI admission requirements. In return, URI promises them a place in its freshmen class following high school graduation.

It’s a four way commitment. Cynthia Bonn, dean of URI Admission, the student’s high school principal, the student and the student’s parent or guardian all sign the contract.

GAP was developed 20 years ago when Marcia Marker Feld, then head of URI’s Urban Field Center, and David Taggart, former dean of URI Admission, realized that city students were knocking on the admission door without the required courses for entry.

A decade ago, there were 461 students who successfully completed the GAP program. After funding stalled seven or eight years ago, the number of participants dipped sharply, but that number has picked up considerably since URI’s Talent Development Program took it under its wing in 2004. Today there are more than 500 students in the GAP/TD program.

The Talent Development Program has provided a special opportunity to students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the University for the past four decades.

GAP/TD works with some of Rhode Island urban high schools and recently expanded into the state’s urban middle schools. GAP/TD’s schools are Shea and Tolman High Schools, Jenks and Slater Junior High Schools in Pawtucket; Central, Hope, Mount Pleasant, and Feinstein High Schools, PAIS and Roger Williams Middle School in Providence; Rogers High School and Thompson Middle School in Newport.

The current core staff includes Gerald R. Williams as Director, Joanna N. Ravello as Assistant Director, Marc D. Hardge, Sara Potter, Kevin A. Smith, and Debra L. Veloso as GAP/TD Coordinators. In addition to the full-time staff, GAP/TD recruits 35 to f40 Talent Development students to serve as mentors during its fall and spring search weekends.

Pictured above

Chris Palencia (center), a junior at Rogers High School in Newport, sits will his parents, Luis and Rosa while waiting to sign the URI GAP/TD contract. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.

Cynthia Bonn (right), dean of Admission, welcomes GAP/TD students about to sign a contract. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.