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Students reflect on STEP/CAP experience

Published on April 08, 2022

Students reflect on STEP/CAP experience

Students in the summer STEP/CAP program

Students in the summer STEP/CAP program

Students in the summer STEP/CAP program

This past summer, 52 students from towns and cities across Connecticut enrolled in Eastern Connecticut State University’s STEP/CAP program -- Summer Transition at Eastern Program/Contract Admission Program. This alternate, summer "bridge" admissions opportunity provides access and first-year support to high school graduates who are first-generation college students, from lower-income families or from underrepresented backgrounds.

Angeleena Smith ’25 of Manchester majors in Criminology and is minoring in Psychology
Angeleena Smith ’25

The goal of the program, now in its 37th year, is to make higher education available to deserving students while promoting the academic and social attitudes necessary for success in college. Students have to earn a minimum overall 2.5 GPA to continue as first-year students in the fall semester. Of the 52 to participate in the summer program, 50 successfully enrolled at Eastern this past fall.

During the six-week summer session, students live on campus and participate in workshops focusing on study skills, time management and public speaking.

Some return in following years to serve as program assistants (PAs) and teaching assistants (TAs), helping other STEP/CAP participants through the program.

Angeleena Smith ’25 of Manchester majors in Criminology and is minoring in Psychology. She said she will never forget an important lesson she learned after she turned in a quiz 15 minutes late.

“We went to class the next day and the instructor said, 'If you did not turn it in on time or at all, don’t worry about it; you already received a zero.' At first, I was so mad because I thought he would accept it, but this isn’t high school anymore. Best believe after that I turned my work in on time even if it wasn’t complete. At least I didn’t get a zero!”

Kiheis Black ’25 

Smith said that lesson taught her to get her priorities straight — to get her work done before all else. “When the fall semester started, I set a goal for myself. I didn’t want to miss any class for any reason because I didn’t want to fall behind and be worried about not being able to catch up. Getting work done on time, going to class on time, staying off my phone in class — the little things that add up can catch up to you. I am glad I got myself into a rhythm to keep myself going in the right direction.” 

Kiheis Black ’25 of Hartford is majoring in Business Administration. “STEP/CAP is under appreciated,” he said. “People need to understand just how vital the program’s plans are in helping incoming college students. From the schedule to the workload, it gives you a small glimpse into what a college semester will look like. It teaches how crucial the importance of structure, through time management, is early on in one’s college life. Learning how to be independent is another critical skill we learn as we transition (to college).”

Norine Andrade ’23 

Norine Andrade ’23, a Psychology major from the island of Cape Verde who lives in Norwich, went through the program and also served as the head PA this past summer. She is currently serving as a peer advisor and says her STEP/CAP experiences have been amazing.

“What challenged me the most was that I did not believe that I could do well in the STEP/CAP program because I’m an immigrant, first-generation college student, and we had only six weeks (over the summer) to cover a semester’s worth of coursework. However, the program and the resources provided made it possible for me to succeed. Sandra Jaros, a lecturer in the Mathematical Sciences Department, was my favorite instructor because she made mathematics seem easy.”

Andrade said she believes she can now do anything she puts her mind to. “I also learned that it is okay to ask for help; it is okay to admit that I don’t know something and allow myself to learn from others and do my own research.”

As a peer adviser, she has developed skills that will be very helpful for her career later in the future. “I’ve met some fantastic people and I believe our students are doing well in this program. I’m grateful for the opportunities and connections I’ve made, and the ability to help others and learn from others. Being a peer advisor will help me succeed throughout my school years and other jobs.”

Caitlin Brophy ’23 of North Haven, who has an individualized major in Family and Consumer Science.
Caitlin Brophy ’23 

Caitlin Brophy ’23 of North Haven, who has an individualized major in Family and Consumer Science, served as a TA last summer. This year, she is serving as STEP/CAP’s head TA. As head TA, she helps students with any academic challenges they may face.

“I've had students come to me with their various problems and have seen how determined they are to do well,” said Brophy. “After working with this group for a year, we seem to be a lot more comfortable and now know how things work and they know what is expected of them. If they still need help, there’s a whole team ready to assist in Opportunity Programs office.”

Brophy mentions Kristen Morgan, associate professor of theatre, as an example of the program’s dedicated faculty. “I loved the way she interacted with the students and made the environment so open so the students would feel comfortable and enjoy class (even though they had) long hours.”

Brophy said she is thankful for the opportunity to work with the students and see them grow so much in a short period of time. “They truly are such an amazing group. The opportunity to give back and to help has been absolutely life changing.”

Kevin Ruiz ’22, of New London and a Computer Science major.
Kevin Ruiz ’22

Kevin Ruiz ’22, of New London and a Computer Science major, was the head PA last summer. “I loved helping new students coming to the university, showing them around and being a resource for students.

“During the summer, STEP CAP puts students in a rhythm from waking up going to classes, eating, working out and doing other activities in the day. This makes it easier for them to adjust to the regular semester since they are able to continue following their rhythm when more classes are added in the fall. When more homework is given to them, they have the ability to do more.”

“In the past, STEP/CAP students have won campus-wide oratorical contests and gone on to work in corporate America, government, non-profit organizations and more,” said Chris Ambrosio, director of opportunity programs.

“The program ends every August with a social gathering, but the contract extends beyond the program itself, lasting all four years of the student’s Eastern career. This year is no different. STEP CAP students are happy and grateful they participated in the STEP/CAP program, as it has benefitted them all.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Categories: Admissions