By Jay Lederman
BRIDGEPORT— Jyles Irby was smiling this past Thursday, sitting among his peers who had just graduated from the month-long You Can Do It high school summer program at Housatonic Community College.
“The program is kind of like a stepping stone,” said the 18-year-old Bridgeport resident who recently graduated from Bridge Academy and was referred to the summer program by his mother. "It defines you as a person because only you truly know, how far you’re willing to go,”
The program, which has been preparing minority males for college since 2009, is intended to better prepare graduating high school students who are enrolling in the fall semester.
“Our goal is to help prepare students achieve academic success,” said Joseph Wickliffe, the Program’s Coordinator. He said the YCDI high school summer program invites recent high school graduates to participate in courses that will expose them to a college environment.
“It’s a smart start for students,” said Irby, “I know it was for me.”
Students who participate in the program are exposed to academic seminars and workshops, including off-campus field trips, in addition to making new friends.
“At first I was nervous about meeting new people, but it was easy for me to pick up and now I feel like a freshman who’s entering sophomore year, said Brandon Hatcher, a 19-yearold Stratford student who recently graduated from the YCDI summer program. He said he has already registered for fall classes and plans to major in graphic design at Housatonic Community College.
The program was originally created to improve low statistical rates of college completion among minority males in the Southern Connecticut area. It provides these at-risk students with an environment where they feel welcome, understood, motivated and supported to become successful students, and contributing members of their community.
After graduating from the summer program, students have the opportunity to join the YCDI family by enrolling full time, said Wickliffe. They will demonstrate their leadership skills by participating in community service programs including tutoring, voluntary clerical work, and supervising children. Last year the students donated clothing and non-perishable food items to social service organizations in Bridgeport, “This gives the students a greater appreciation for their community,” said Wickliffe, “After all this is where they’re living.”
“The program helped me out a lot. It helped me find my purpose in college,” said Jonathan Alvarado, a Bridgeport resident and 2010 graduate of the summer program, “The program taught me how to build communication skills with friends and family. Because that’s what the program is, it’s one big family.”
Tyrone Thigpen, a 21-year old Bridgeport resident and Central High graduate is grateful for all the academic success he has had from enrolling in the summer program, and he often stops by the office to chat with his friends. “It’s had a positive impact on my life,” he said.
Since graduating from the YCDI program, Thigpen has received a certificate in PC repair and will graduate next year with an Associate Degree in Computer Information Technology.
“They can expect to see me around the YCDI office even after I’ve graduated,” he said. “We’re like a family here.”
Jay Lederman of Monroe is a journalism student/intern at Housatonic Community College.