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Westfield State awarded $76,000 in Massachusetts state grants to support The Westfield Promise

Westfield State University has been awarded $76,000 in state grants to continue development of The Westfield Promise, the University’s early college experience program.

The University received a fiscal year 2018 Performance Incentive Fund program grant of $66,178, as announced by Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and $10,000 Massachusetts Early College Grant, announced by Dr. Carlos Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education.

In the award letter to President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D., Gov. Baker wrote “Thank you for your commitment to providing academic opportunities and increasing workforce readiness for students of all abilities.”

Funding for the Early College Grant is available through the New Skills for Youth Grant, the Performance Incentive Fund, and the STEM Pipeline Funds. Both grants will support The Westfield Promise, for which the University partners with public high schools in Holyoke, Springfield and Westfield. Westfield State faculty co-teach what is known as a “stretch year” course with the high school faculty to high school juniors. Aimed to benefit underrepresented student populations, including first-generation students, the program provides high school students with an early exposure to the rigor of collegiate study and immerses them into the campus environment – enabling them to more clearly visualize themselves completing a four-year degree. Students are supported by more time with course material and additional resources, and will transition to taking more college courses as seniors.

The program began in fall 2017 with 91 students participating. If they meet the appropriate admissions criteria of the University, these students will eventually earn preferred admission to Westfield State, with the hope that they will enroll.

President Torrecilha lauds the program’s commitment to the values of the University. “The Westfield Promise is a student-centered, mission-centric initiative, which enables Westfield State to expand its inclusive community, support the personal development of all of its members and embrace multiple perspectives,” he said. “By welcoming and engaging with underserved student populations we hope to continue to diversify our student enrollment and make a college education a reality for more bright and inquisitive minds.”

The Westfield Promise is aimed to advance the Department of Higher Education’s “Big Three” goals, as identified in a 2014 Vision Project annual report. The high-impact strategies address the projected shortfall in students enrolled at Massachusetts’ public colleges and universities in the coming years. The goals are (1) boost college completion rates; (2) close achievement gaps and (3) attract and graduate more students from underserved populations.

Also core to the “Big Three” goals and University values is the The Westfield State Experience, Westfield State’s signature student engagement initiative. Developed for its undergraduate students, The Westfield State Experience provides a highly personalized, four-year road map to further immerse students in their academic and practical experiences to bring about increased student success and outcomes. The Experience concentrates on the first-year experience, a year of reflection, practical and experiential learning, and final preparation for careers or graduate school.