Twenty-seven exceptional high school students officially joined the Brookdale community this month as the newest members of the Poseidon Early College High School program.
The free program is the first of its kind in the state of New Jersey. Based in Brookdale’s Neptune Higher Education Center, Poseidon is a unique partnership between Brookdale and the Neptune Township School District (NTSD), allowing students to take high school- and college-level courses simultaneously and earn an associate degree by the time they complete the 12th grade.
The program, open to first-generation college students, is funded by an unprecedented $1 million endowment to the college from local education advocates Dr. Robert and Joan Rechnitz. Poseidon welcomed its first class of 25 students in 2014, and it is expected to graduate approximately 100 students by 2021.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to not only save money on their college education, but to actually get a head start on their goals,” said Poseidon Site Administrator Tara Stephenson.
“It is going to be challenging, but by the conclusion of the program our graduates will be academically and intellectually prepared to be successful at the next level.”
The Class of 2019 was officially welcomed to the program during an acceptance reception held April 17 in the atrium of the Michael T. Lake Performing Arts Center in Neptune High School. Incoming students were joined by a large crowd of friends, family members, members of the NTSD Board of Education, Brookale faculty and administrators and members of the Brookdale Board of Trustees.
After delivering an inspirational welcoming address, NTSD Superintendent David A. Mooij asked each student to share what they would like to achieve in their time at Poseidon. Several students said that they would like to be the first in their families to attend and graduate college.
The members of the incoming class are: Syed Ali, Nathaly Alvarado, Antonia Benedictis, Medina Bennett, Angel Blue, Michelle Bowman, Taheara Clarke, Taylor Copeland, Emanuel Cruz, Marina Davila, Carissa DiStefano, Ah’Naizah Evans, Joseline Hernandez, Trevor Jones, Adriel Juarez, Raiayna Leeks, Shellbea Leon, Emmanual Leveille, Kaitlyn Louro, Tom McKnight, Farrah Murphy, Samantha Neigel, Jericho Orienza, Juliana Rodriguez, Nayeli Rojas, Nina Rossi, and Joseph Sarambo.
This fall, the freshmen will join the inaugural Poseidon class at the Neptune Higher Education Center, which has been renovated and enhanced with a wide range of technological upgrades specifically for the new program.
Students have access to personal laptops, whiteboards, interactive classroom furniture and a large digital “smartboard,” which allows for real-time video conferencing with experts and a collaborative learning experience using the students’ own mobile devices.
Outside of the classroom, Poseidon students are able to engage in a wide range of clubs and activities, including individual help sessions, academic and professional enrichment workshops, community service projects and regular class trips.
This year’s class volunteered at the Neptune Senior Center, delivering instructional workshops on the use of cell phones and electronic devices. The student-run Poseidon Book Club also read stories and facilitated monthly activities for the kindergarten classes at Gables Elementary School in Neptune. The Poseidon Art Club painted holiday scenes on storefront windows in Ocean Grove and Belmar this winter, and all Poseidon students took time out to learn CPR.
Throughout the year, the class was able to explore different subjects and career opportunities during visits to the Discovery Museum and Rockefeller Center in New York City; the Robert J. Novins Planetarium in Toms River; DLB Engineering Associates in Eatontown; the Center of Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education in Lincroft; and the New Jersey Korean War Memorial and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Atlantic City.
During a “Healthcare Careers Exploration Day” at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, doctors assigned each of the students a specific hospital job. Students were able to get a close-up view of the emergency room, trauma center and other departments while speaking directly with working doctors, nurses, dieticians, physical therapists and other professionals.
Despite the wide range of available activities, however, Poseidon is not a walk in the park. To apply for the program, potential students must submit a comprehensive application packet and personal essay, then participate in a student-family interview session with the program’s admissions committee. Applicants are considered based on a number of factors, including their grade point average, attendance and discipline records.
If admitted, students must be willing to give up sports and other extracurricular activities, spending nearly all of their time among their Poseidon classmates and taking college classes at the higher education center.
This year the inaugural cohort completed three college courses for a total of eight credits, alongside a number of freshman- and sophomore-level high school courses. The students will take on more college-level coursework over the next two years, before transferring to Brookdale’s main campus in Lincroft and becoming full-time college students for their senior year of high school.
Despite the hard work, however, Poseidon students say they are excited for the challenge ahead.
“I can’t believe how much I am learning here,” said Poseidon student Alex Sanchez, just prior to completing his first year in the program. “I know that it’s going to get more difficult as time goes on, but I feel that I’m ready for it.”
To learn more about the Poseidon program, click here.