State Farm Insurance Presents Grant to MCCC
For Student Volunteer Project at Trenton Central High School


WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- At a ceremony on the Mercer County Community College campus February 22, the State Farm® Youth Advisory Board presented a $38,500 check to fund a service-learning project called Discovering Options that will help Trenton Central High School students prepare for college. MCCC is the only organization in New Jersey selected to receive a service learning grant this year.

During the presentation four students who took part in writing the grant spoke in detail to an audience of trustees, State Farm representatives, community partners, faculty and staff about their plan to help the high schoolers.

The four students are part of a 45-member MCCC service-learning program called LEADS (Leadership, Engagement, Academics, Determination and Service-Learning), which will work directly with the

MCCC students who assisted in writing a successful grant proposal to State Farm, front row from left, are Shanique Stoddard, Sade CarMichael, Sharon Herrera and Latrail Jackson. Back row from left are State Farm Agent Mark Ullman, MCCC Trustee Mark Matzen, PASS Director Khalida Haqq, State Farm Agent Jim Moore, EOF Recruiter and LEADS Advisor Al-Lateef Farmer, and State Farm Agent Joseph Meeks.

high school students each week, focusing on college selection, college tours, financial aid literacy, SAT preparation, and life skills. The project begins this month and is slated to continue through June of 2015. After school tutoring will take place at the high school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and a "College Club" will meet Wednesday evenings, bringing in representatives to speak on pertinent topics.

One of the requirements for State Farm's grants is that students conceive a project and assist in writing the grant. Under the guidance of Dr. Khalida Haqq, MCCC's Director of PASS (Programs for Academic Services and Success), four of the college's LEADS students each researched a part of the project and came together to write the proposal.

LEAD students who worked on the writing project all attend MCCC through the NJSTARS program. Latrial Jackson, Sharon Herrara, Shanique Stoddard and Sade Carmichael wrote in the grant, "Remembering back to the struggles we had to go through as high school students in preparing ourselves for post-secondary opportunities, we see it fit that we go back and help high school students in our former situations. We have seen a lot of fellow students slack off and drop out. Graduating high school and pursuing something valuable to their futures was not real enough for them. We want to use Discovering Options to overcome that lack of motivation by helping students to think more seriously about college and other alternatives."

The students chose to work with 9th and 12th graders because "these grades are two very extreme milestones in a high school student's life." They have asked professionals in higher education and at the high school to serve as program advisors, and have established partnerships with MCCC's Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search programs, and Princeton University's Preparatory Program. They also plan to involve fellow TCHS alumni.

The majority of LEADS students are graduates of Trenton Central High School. In their proposal they said, "We are well aware of the conditions and attitudes that can cause students to create low expectations for themselves and have apathetic attitudes towards their education. We understand that many students lack the resources and support from home and in school and that can lead to poor motivation."

According to Dr. Haqq, "These students are very impressive and did an outstanding job of conceiving and writing this proposal. Ours was the only such proposal in New Jersey that was funded."

MCCC's PASS programs offer retention services and foster academic achievement and persistence with a focus on at-risk students, especially those participating in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) and Student Support Services (SSS) programs. Three of the student writers participate in the EOF program and one in the SSS program.

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board is a diverse group of 30 youth, ages 17-20, who were chosen through a competitive process to lead and oversee this $5 million/year signature service-learning initiative. The Youth Board identified the issues, issued competitive grants and will now provide technical assistance, communication and oversight to site grantees.

State Farm supports service-learning because it combines service to the community with classroom curriculum in a hands-on approach to mastering subject material while fostering civic responsibility.

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