York Early Academy Set To Graduate First Class

On June 25th the York Early College Academy (YECA) will graduate its first cohort of students. But first, the inaugural class was feted at a breakfast in their honor at York College. The June 11th breakfast celebrated the graduating seniors, parents, teachers and administrators of the middle-through high school academy.

This is no ordinary group of high school seniors. They are "The Legacy Class" of their school. Chancellor Dennis Walcott also came to celebrate the graduating class. The 71 graduates will move seamlessly into college fully prepared for the rigors of higher education because they lived it throughout the high school period of their school, by taking college courses at York.

"This is really a great way to start the day...talking to you," said Chancellor Walcott. "The pride I have in you is tremendous. I was like you guys, only you guys are a lot further along than I was. You have a special responsibility, representing the first class. You've set the tone. I just couldn't be prouder of you."

The concept for the early college academies, a nationwide program designed to give a boost to students in minority communities, was initially seeded by a collaborative grant through the CUNY Office of Collaborative Programs; and also funded by the New York City Department of Education and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The program is designed for students in grades six through 12 and helps them prepare for college environment while offering them the opportunity to earn upwards of 60 college credits, transferable towards their bachelor's degree within CUNY.

YECA opened for classes in September 2006 and now shares space on the campus of Intermediate School 8 (IS8) with oversight by York College and the Department of Education.

Among the graduates on June 25th will be Gregory Brown, who at 17 is the youngest member of his class. Brown is salutatorian, and will attend York College with the assistance of the Hank Sheinkopf Merit Scholarship. The scholarship is funded by and named for a York alumnus of the Class of 1973. Mr. Sheinkopf is a sought-after political and media strategist with a who's who of clients in business and politics.

"It feels great to know that I have accomplished so much at a young age," says Brown, who has been on the York College Dean's List throughout his years taking classes at the college. He will graduate with 63 credits, which will count toward his undergraduate degree, allowing him to graduate early.

Dr. Marcia V. Keizs, president of York College, is delighted with the outcome of the first class.

"Warm, warm congratulations to you and your parents," said Keizs. "We celebrate you because you have been the experiment. "Having finished this goal, I am sure you'll finish all other goals. 21 of you will continue your education at York. We will continue to embrace you. You have shown that you can close the deal."

YECA's principal, Dr. Deborah Burnett-Worthy also marveled at the success of the students who paved the way for the future of the school.

"I can't believe these are the same adorable sixth-graders I met in 2006," said Burnett-Worthy. "Twenty five percent of these students have over 50 college credits. I am so proud to say that they have kicked the statistics in the teeth."

Among the guests at the breakfast was Dr. Cheryl Smith, the York College dean (now retired) who shepherded the program through its founding stages. She observed that "it's an amazing accomplishment all around;" and Michele Neuhaus, York College Program Manager for YECA

The YECA Commencement will take place in the college's Performing Arts Center located at 92-20 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard on June 25 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Alfredo Rodriguez is the Valedictorian

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