Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ninth-, 10th-graders prepare early to succeed in college

First-generation students from underserved communities
immersed in college life during second year of Saint Mary’s program

WINONA, Minn. — Fifty ninth- and 10th-graders from Chicago; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Racine, Wis.; and Tucson, Ariz., are getting a head start on college success this summer, thanks to a first-of-its-kind program offered by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

From July 16 to Aug. 6, the university’s Countdown to College academic camp is providing these students (and teachers from their home schools) with activities that will help them prepare for successful college experiences. Countdown to College offers free classes, recreation, field trips, and room and board. Countdown to College will boost students’ skills, confidence and knowledge of how to negotiate the social and academic world of college.

Now in its second year, the program is welcoming each class of students for four consecutive summers. Currently 25 ninth-graders are experiencing “college” for the first time at SMU’s Winona campus. On July 30, they’ll be joined by 25 students from last year’s inaugural C2C camp who will return to Winona for two weeks of additional study and recreation. Each year a new group of ninth-graders will be selected to participate in the Countdown to College experience, resulting in a total camp population of 100 ninth- through 12th-graders by the fourth summer.

“To our knowledge, this is the first program in the nation that offers four consecutive years of early immersion in the college experience,” said Dr. Jane Anderson, Countdown to College program director, who helped develop the program.

Why the program is needed

Currently, about one of every two economically disadvantaged youth of color in the U.S. does not graduate from high school. Only a small percentage of Latinos and African Americans have college degrees. This is the reality even as demand is rising for better-educated workers who can function in today’s technologically complex global economy.

“Countdown to College is designed to ensure college success for first-generation students whose parents did not have the opportunity to go to college,” said Dr. Anderson. “First-generation students, many of them students of color from underserved schools and communities, are at an economic and educational disadvantage when it comes to reaching and finishing college. These are all factors that are known to significantly limit their ability to attend and succeed in college.”

Countdown to College highlights

Countdown to College seeks to break down the barriers to higher education by exposing youth directly to the college experience for two weeks each summer for four straight years. The first summer, each day is filled with college orientation and classes in reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, math and leadership. Their schedules also include supervised study halls, academic contests, sports, recreation, and field trips. Other college preparation subjects, such as science, are added in subsequent years.

One of the most distinctive aspects of the program is that it includes a teacher or staff representative from each of the participating students’ schools. They co-teach the classes alongside Saint Mary’s instructors. This helps prepare the university instructors to work with an increasingly diverse population of college students. In turn, the visiting teachers learn how to set their students up for success in college and how to help create a community of support around the students.

The participants in Countdown to College attend schools in the Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Racine, Chicago and Tucson metropolitan areas. Preference is given to graduates of Saint Mary’s middle school partners in the NativityMiguel Network of Jesuit and Christian Brothers’ schools, which are located in those cities.

Countdown to College is funded for 2010-2013 by a generous donation from Jack and Mary Ann Remick of Rochester, Minn., who are long-time supporters of Saint Mary’s University. Mary Ann Remick is also the chairwoman of Saint Mary’s First-Generation Advisory Board and a member of the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees.

Part of the broader ‘First-Generation Initiative’

Countdown to College is the foundation segment of Saint Mary’s broader First-Generation Initiative to improve college access and success.

"Countdown to College and our First-Generation Initiative reflect Saint Mary’s mission to make higher education accessible to learners, regardless of their financial situations,” said Brother William Mann, president of Saint Mary’s University.

Countdown to College graduates will receive preferential consideration to participate in Saint Mary’s First-Generation Initiative program, which provides college scholarships, and educational support to first-generation students who demonstrate financial need as well as leadership and academic potential. In 2010-11, 13 students received full to partial scholarships through the First-Generation Initiative. These scholarships provide financial support for tuition, room and board, books, computer, spending money, and one semester of study abroad.

“Students participating in Countdown to College may potentially become part of Saint Mary’s First-Generation Initiative scholarship program, which would be a seamless continuation of support for these students,” said Brother Edmund Siderewicz, assistant to the president for First-Generation and Lasallian Initiatives. “Our goal is to provide full scholarships and opportunities for our First-Generation students – study abroad, internships, life to the fullest – because we know these students have the potential to accomplish great things.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saint Mary’s University to host LVs Ride participants July 22-24

Bikers raising money to end poverty

WINONA, Minn. — Saint Mary’s University is hosting and sponsoring the LVs (Lasallian Volunteers) Ride, a cross-country bike ride that is raising money to end poverty in our nation’s underserved communities.

The proceeds of the LVs Ride — which routes from Astoria, Ore., to Long Branch, N.J. — will go to Lasallian Volunteers, a full-time volunteer program serving the nation’s most neglected communities. Lasallian Volunteers is a program of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, and provides dedicated, well-trained volunteers for one or more years of service to schools and agencies whose mission is to serve the poor. Lasallian Volunteers provide over 100,000 hours of service and serve over 8,215 children and families each year.

One SMU alumna, Glenna Kryzyanowski, is joining approximately 14 other LVs Ride participants for the coast-to-coast trip.

A leg of their journey will bring the bikers through Winona Friday, July 22. Saint Mary’s invites the public to meet participants and learn more about Lasallian Volunteers during a picnic on the plaza of SMU’s Winona campus on Saturday, July 23. Burgers and side dishes will be provided for a freewill donation. The picnic will begin at 6 p.m. with the riders doing a demonstration at 7 p.m.

The group will continue on its journey the morning of Sunday, July 24, and are expected to complete their ride on Aug. 14. They left Astoria, Ore., on June 14.

Other cyclists are encouraged to take up the challenge to fight poverty — cyclists are welcome for even a portion of the trip. To donate to this cause or learn more about the LVs Ride, go to

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

SMU welcomes Flying Foot Forum; two-day workshops culminate in July 23 show

WINONA, Minn. — Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum will present an evening of intricately layered percussive footwork for Saint Mary’s University’s first “Off the Page” event Saturday, July 23.

Audiences are invited to watch what the Minneapolis Star Tribune coined as “fierce exhilarating dancemaking” at 8 p.m. in the Valéncia Arts Center, located at 10th and Vila streets.

The Flying Foot Forum is a vibrant and bold percussive dance/theater company that fuses percussion and percussive dances with many other forms of music, dance and theater, telling unusual tales, creating a wild variety of characters, and exploring universal ideas in inventive and exciting new ways.

Chvala has worked as a director, choreographer, writer, composer, performer, and teacher for opera companies, experimental and nonexperimental theatres, concert dance venues, performing arts academies, and universities. Located in Minneapolis since 1990, Chvala previously worked in New York and Gothenburg, Sweden.

Tickets are $15 for adults or $10 for seniors and students and are available at the SMU Box Office, (507) 457-1715, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays or online at

In conjunction with their visit, Chvala and the dancers will present a free lecture/demonstration on the history of tap and jazz dance at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at the Valéncia Arts Center. The artists will also conduct master classes with Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts students July 22-23. For more information, call (507) 453-5500 or go to

Saint Mary’s University’s “Off The Page” events feature Minnesota artists in venues around town throughout the year. Enjoy additional Page Series-quality performances at other convenient, accessible locations in Winona!

Saint Mary’s is a fiscal year 2011 recipient of an Institutional Presenter Support grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is funded, in part, by the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008.