A former NEBHE chair reflects on a pathway to success …
As a father of three and a grandfather of nine, I could not be prouder of the accomplishments of my loved ones. I am blessed with a tremendous family and it seems like only yesterday my grandchildren were taking their first steps. The milestones come quickly and memories of birthday parties, kindergarten, graduations and learning to ride a bike transition to accomplishments as young adults. As a former educator, I believe our young people deserve every opportunity to pursue their dreams no matter what their circumstance, background or financial status.
Take my grandson Dillan, for example. I’ve watched him grow as a student-athlete in Bow, N.H., to where he has seen tremendous success as a varsity hockey player. This year, as he graduates with his class of 2019, one accolade is near and dear to my heart.
Dillan graduated with the distinction as a New Hampshire Scholar. This award is the result of his self-motivation, pushing to be the best version of himself. Maybe it was his school counselors and teachers encouraging him to take the most rigorous curriculum available. Maybe it was his friends urging him to take challenging classes. Maybe it was those grandfather/grandson chats inspiring him to give 100% effort no matter what he does. Or maybe, it was a little bit of all those things.
The fact is, Dillan is one example of thousands of students across New Hampshire who have completed a rigorous core course of study in high school. These students are recognized by the New Hampshire College & University Council, in partnership with the state Department of Education, as New Hampshire Scholars. This year, 5,420 high school seniors graduated with this distinction. It has become part of the fabric in nearly every high school across the state.
Why is this newsworthy? The stats tell the story: More than 88% of middle school students say they want to go to college. However, once they get to high school, students frequently don’t take the necessary courses preparing them for college-level work. This leads to remedial classes, frustration, wasted time and money, and for those who still pursue higher education, a longer pathway to a college degree. Students completing the New Hampshire Scholars curriculum are college-ready and nearly 100% of them enroll in some form of postsecondary education upon high school graduation.
The Scholars program is funded with $100,000 from New Hampshire’s general fund through the state Department of Education. The Scholars program is governed by a board of directors, which I chair. The purpose is to excite secondary school students to pursue a more rigorous academic program and as a result receive a scholars diploma. Our colleges and universities within the state provide an incentive by offering scholarship assistance to our graduates who have sought the more rigorous schedule and achieved a diploma. We have an event every year to honor our scholars before a Fisher Cats baseball game in Manchester. The program has been successful and continues to expand with almost every high school in NH participating. We’re looking to make it 100 percent.
As a state senator, New Hampshire’s education and workforce development are important to me. As a former educator, I know that a well-prepared graduate will become a successful adult and our job is to both prepare young people and encourage them to stay in New Hampshire to live, work and raise a family.
As a grandfather, I want to ensure that my grandchildren are successful. Through New Hampshire Scholars, I know that students like Dillan are not only prepared academically, but they have gained critical skills regarding career exploration as well. New Hampshire’s employers are looking for high-skilled workers and programs such as New Hampshire Scholars are paving the way for students to be college-ready, career-ready … and life-ready.
Dillan will be attending Plymouth State University to study Adventure Education in the fall. He is on a path to acquire the skills needed in today’s workforce. I could not be more pleased as he is a shining example for my younger grandkids who will hopefully follow his lead. I encourage all students to learn about the about the New Hampshire Scholars program. Students earning this recognition are stronger applicants to their college of choice and are eligible for merit scholarships at nearly all colleges and universities in New Hampshire. As the board chair of the NH Scholars program, I am one of its biggest fans.
Congratulations to this year’s Class of 2019. And to my grandson Dillan, I can’t wait to see what where your path leads you.
Lou D’Allesandro is a New Hampshire state senator and former chair of NEBHE.