College Now Celebrates Summer Graduation

The York College Atrium was jumping with the sounds of the York College Summer Jazz Program (SJP), there was a Tuskegee Airman on hand and high school students were ready to receive their certificates. Welcome to College Now graduation 2011.

College Now is a City University of New York (CUNY) program, which offers New York City high school students college experience and builds credits toward their college education.

At York, the program offerings include music (and the opportunity to be part of the York College Summer Jazz Program, under the direction of music professor, Thomas Zlabinger); Aviation, which could include flight lessons with seasoned flight instructor and engineer, Henry Rey and other qualified pilots. Aviation students are first trained in the college’s flight simulation lab before being taken out to Republic Airport in Farmingdale for the real thing.

Students in the six-week summer program also had their own show-and-tell in the form of a video of their activities such as scenes of them learning to fly. Appropriately, the background music to the video was singer R. Kelly’s, “I Believe I Can Fly.”

The video ended with a poignant tribute to the memory of the college’s Tuskegee Airmen friends who have passed away over the past two years including Lee Archer, Victor Terrelonge and William Wheeler, who passed away just two weeks before the graduation. On hand for the celebration was their surviving friend, fellow Airman, Julius Freeman and a buddy

There was also an art exhibition around the theme of law and justice. “Scaled Up,” was an exhibit of out-sized three-dimensional paper sculptures of the symbols of justice: gavel, scale, the U.S. Constitution and other items. The theme was also carried out in paintings exhibited on a three-panel display board, with a black and white printout of Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy’s alleged assassin. The time-warped image of America’s most notorious 20th century suspect stood in stark contrast to the colorful student paintings.

According to Les Raphael, director of the York site, College Now students hail from New York City public high schools through an agreement with the New York City Department of Education and the City University (CUNY) of New York in 2000. Students are able to earn college credits at the CUNY campuses during after-school attendance in addition to the six-week summer session.

“We offer about 80 different courses per year,” said Raphael. “Most of them are typical Gen Ed (General Education) courses like psychology, biology, mathematics. But York also offers Introduction to Aviation (with flying lessons), Jazz History and Jazz Workshop and art. And the art and music classes at York are different from what they do in high school.”

According to Raphael, there were 70 students in the program this summer with 31 serving in the York College Summer Jazz Program, 23 in Aviation and 16 in Fine Arts. The art students also had the opportunity to exhibit their work at the graduation ceremony.

“It’s a wonderful program that continues to grow each year,” said Raphael. These courses offer more excitement that any regular college courses could and it’s a taste of college. They are playing (music) and flying.”

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