For 17 local elementary school students, college is no longer a far-off dream. In only a matter of months, it will be a reality.
The students – all incoming high school freshmen from Neptune Middle School and Bradley Beach Elementary School – are the fourth cohort to join the Poseidon Early College High School program, a joint initiative launched by Brookdale and the Neptune Township School District (NTSD) in 2014.
The groundbreaking program, funded by a $1 million endowment to the college from local education advocates Dr. Robert and Joan Rechnitz, offers first-generation college students the chance to earn an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. The free program was the first of its kind in the state of New Jersey.
The Poseidon class of 2021 was officially welcomed into the program on March 31 during an Acceptance Reception Breakfast at Neptune Township High School. Representatives from NTSD, the Neptune Township Board of Education, Brookdale and the Poseidon were on hand to congratulate the students in front of a capacity crowd of family members and current Poseidon students.
“I know your future shines bright,” said Neptune Board of Education president Jason Jones. “But I also know, and our friends at Brookdale agree, that you guys are leading the way. You guys are changing not only Neptune, you’re changing the county, you’re changing the state, and you’re changing education in a positive way. I’m really proud of all of you, and I’m really proud of what you are going to become.”
Those sentiments were echoed by a wide range of speakers, including NTSD superintendent Dr. Tami Crader, Brookdale’s Neptune Higher Education Center director Charanne Smith, and Anita Voogt, executive dean of Brookdale HECs and K-16 partnerships.
“We are here today representing our faculty, administrators, and student services offices, all of whom are here to help you,” said Voogt. “The most important thing to us is your success.”
The reception, emceed by Poseidon Class of 2018 member and current Student Council president David Rodriguez, also featured musical performances and a series of video welcome messages created by current Poseidon students.
Upper-classmen were also seated at each incoming student’s table to answer any questions and help welcome them into the program.
For incoming Poseidon student Elijah Brown, it was a day of both celebration and anticipation.
“I’m very excited,” said Brown, 14, who was joined at the ceremony by his parents Lamont and Shalon. “I’ve been interested in the program since I first heard about it, back in about 6th grade. It’s an opportunity for a better education, and it’s a different kind of challenge. I’m ready for that.”
Like previous cohorts, the Poseidon class of 2021 will study at Brookdale’s Neptune Higher Education Center for their first three years, completing high school and college courses simultaneously. In their senior year, Poseidon members become full-time college students studying on Brookdale’s Lincroft campus. Upon completion, Poseidon graduates will be ready to begin their junior year of college.
Throughout the program students are also offered a wealth of personal and professional development opportunities, from community service initiatives and guest speakers to class trips and student clubs.
While demanding, the program also provides students with the opportunity to push their limits, exceed their own expectations and become leaders in and out of the classroom, Rodriguez said.
“Poseidon is a very unique experience,” said Rodriguez, who will begin studying full-time on Brookdale’s Lincroft campus this fall. “We’ve become kind of a family here. The work can be difficult at times, but we’re there for each other. And that’s why we wanted to be here for the class of 2021 today.”
The Poseidon Class of 2021 is: Janissa Almineur; Donyae Anthony-Williams; Alexander Barajas; Michele Brown-Mason; Nayely Calva; Everett Cheavers; Janiya Clay; Aglaia Dextra; Cristian Herrera; Johanna Perry; Adriana Reyes; Raymond Rogers; Ethan Rosa; Nicholas Sarambo; Emma Tasso; and Kayla Waters.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Poseidon Principal Richard Allen; Brookdale Vice President for Learning Dr. Matthew Reed and Academic and Career Transitions Dean Franklyn Rother.
Click here learn more about the Poseidon Early College High School program.
Check out more photos from the Acceptance Reception here.