Brooklyn, NY — The sense of achievement was palpable on the faces of the students at Brooklyn College’s Gershwin Hall as 71 of the original 74 students who entered BC’s STAR (Science, Technology and Research) Early College High School stepped to the stage to receive their diplomas on June 26.
“When we entered four years ago, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Jayson Jones, the class valedictorian, who plans to attend Cornell in the fall. “This program was a test. Now that we’re all sitting here, I can gladly say we passed that test.”
At a time when the graduation rate for public high school students in New York City and other urban areas is around 50 percent, STAR’s 96 percent graduation rate stands out as a testament to the effectiveness of what started four years ago as an experiment.
“You all are proof that the experiment has worked,” Brooklyn College Provost Roberta Matthews, the keynote speaker and a fervent advocate of educational reform at both the college and high school level, told the graduates. “Wear your distinction with pride.”
STAR was one of 70 early college high schools funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003. Dismayed that only 2 of every 10 high-school graduates in the country went on to earn a college degree, the foundation decided to fund the schools in the hopes that they would help students underserved by higher education.
The STAR students take college courses in addition to their regular secondary curriculum. All of the 71 graduates have been accepted to college. Some have earned enough credits to bypass a whole year of college. Together, they earned more than $200,000 in scholarships to attend colleges and universities that include Cornell, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon and St. Johns universities as well as Brooklyn College and other CUNY institutions.
“You all are pioneers,” Matthews, who will retire this summer, told the graduates. “Not only are you members of STAR’s first graduating class, but you are the first graduates of the early college high school movement.”
Today there are some 17,000 students at 130 early college high schools across the country. STAR is the result of a collaboration between Brooklyn College and the Gateway Institute. It is located at the historic Erasmus Hall High School in Flatbush, Brooklyn, which claims many notable graduates including music industry executive Clive Davis, publisher Earl Graves, actress and singer Barbara Streisand, and Moe Howard of The Three Stooges.