Thanks to a summer session of the Individual Enrichment Program (IEP), 40 of MCLA's incoming freshmen got a jump-start on college. For four weeks, they lived in the dorms, made new friends, earned college credits, and were introduced to the campus and the surrounding community through cultural and recreational activities.
Beyond the summer, a student's participation in IEP is ongoing.
"The summer session is just one component of the program," explained Wendy Guerra, IEP coordinator. "Students in the Individual Enrichment Program continue to receive individualized academic support and advising until they graduate from MCLA."
According to Guerra, for many students, the IEP summer session is a defining, high-impact experience. In addition to enrolling in three classes and attending a series of workshops - including those with advice for academic success - students accompany faculty and staff on excursions throughout the Berkshires. Activities include a hike of Mt. Greylock, a play at the Barrington Stage, visits to museums, concerts and even some contra dancing. All the while, they are mentored by student academic and residential counselors.
One student who participated in this summer's IEP session was Gascard Gaston '16 of Boston, Mass. (pictured above, center), who found a new sense of confidence - not only with his studies, but his interactions with others. He discovered that he's more friendly and outgoing than he thought.
"I was nervous going to MCLA; I did not know anyone and did not know how difficult the classes were going to be," Gaston explained. "However, this program showed me how to succeed. I could not have done it without the staff, professors, and mostly importantly, my friends. They motivated me and pushed me to do better."
Before this summer's program, D'Mani Vass '16 of Boston, Mass., said he was a "normal high school student" who didn't manage his time well. "I didn't really care about much. I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself. I am now going to be a success from the IEP. ...I've learned a lot here - academically, socially."
"All the classes were helpful, either helping you with your major or just building up your weakness in a certain area," Gaston said. "My English course helped me become more open to sharing my ideas and my writing skills in front of the whole class."
A computer class taught Gaston new skills related to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Access and Excel. IEP also provided his first exposure to statistics.
"I had to learn so much in just a month. I'm proud of myself for accomplishing the whole syllabus," Gaston explained. "When I look back at all the work I have done, I still cannot believe I was able to accomplish so much in just a month. I'm excited to have six credits in successfully passing all my classes."
Overall, he said, the program was a way to have a preview of what lies ahead. "The staff and faculty did a great job of preparing me. I improved on my studying skills and socializing habits. I'm more organized and manage my time better."
Marisa Costain '16 of Foxborough, Mass., said she never dreamed how being accepted to MCLA and the IEP would change her life.
"As I got to know everyone here, I realized this is something special," she explained. "This school, this community, you feel like you're a part of it forever."
For more information, contact the Learning Services Center at (413) 662-5389 or the Admissions Office at 800-969-6252.