The Faces of the Summer Literacy Institute

Every summer, a group of 30 New York City high schoolers become acquainted with Manhattan College and know it as the place that confirmed their desires to attend college.

David Hawkins, known as Trae to his friends, said that Manhattan College’s Summer Literacy Institute (SLI) played a key role in his college acceptance.

SLI’s goal is to help NYC teens prepare for the college application and decision process.

Dozens of local students confirmed their desire to attend college at this year’s institute. Krystal Diaz/Courtesy

Hawkins attended The Metropolitan High School in the Bronx which, according to Insideschools’ guide to NYC public schools, has a 66-percent graduation rate.

Hawkins is now enrolled as a freshman at Penn State with a full ride scholarship.

“Now that I am attending college, I believe SLI adequately gave me an edge on how to navigate through secondary education,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said that taking classes through SLI and living on campus made him feel like he was already a college student.

Hawkins (right) with his parents at his high school graduation. Trae Hawkins/Courtesy

“For five days, I lived exactly as a college student was and that made me even more excited to actually start college.”

Marisa Passafiume, MC’s assistant vice president for academic success, volunteers to coordinate SLI’s week long college level courses as well as workshops to help each student complete their college essays.

Passafiume said that SLI is is designed to answer the questions students have about college so they can decide if it is the right fit.

“We really try to just give them an idea of what college is like and show them that they can do it. And just little skills to help them out,” Passafiume said.

Dean Trusty participated in SLI this summer and said that he is more confident in himself and his future because of the program.

Dean Trusty, center, with 2016 S.L.I. student members. Dean Trusty/Courtesy

“SLI made me a changed young man. It made me look at colleges differently, in addition to making my college choice accurate,” Trusty said.

Trusty said that he enjoyed sharing his college essay with all the other SLI students and their families at the end of the week.

“It was like we were family having Thanksgiving dinner on July. We were really grateful for having each other and having something in common,” Trusty said.

He said SLI opened his eyes because it offered something that he had never heard of.

“Living on campus and taking college classes was a rare opportunity, a very rare opportunity for a teen growing up in the Bronx,” Trusty said.

For a Queens native, SLI was 15 miles away and presented a different kind of rare opportunity.

Abbie Gonzalez is a senior at Aviation Career & Technical Education High School in Queens.

She said that she did not even know where MC was before she applied to SLI.

“I was craving for a change. I had to figure things out on my own and just give it a try… I just wanted to gain a new feeling. Get out of the common and try something new,” Gonzalez said.

She was worried that she was not going to get accepted because she missed the deadline.

Gonzalez found out that she was accepted with a less than one week before the program started.

“That’s where I officially started to wonder what would it be like to be on campus and not knowing anyone there and what it was going to be like,” she said.

Gonzalez said that not knowing anyone else was her favorite part of the experience because she had to rely on herself.

“I never thought about attending college until this summer. I used to think college was not for me and joining the military was probably the best way to go since I’m [part of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps],” Gonzalez said.

“[SLI] enlightens in a way where it built curiosity in me and made me question if maybe college is for me,” she said.

Although Gonzalez is uncertain about her plans after high school, she said that SLI showed her how to be comfortable with the not knowing what the future holds.

“This summer I felt like I expanded my mind. It’s okay to wonder and to not know everything,” Gonzalez said.