When it comes to thinking about college, the emphasis generally goes on high school juniors and seniors, which is when students begin to fill out applications and take their college-entry standardized tests. For New York City public school students, however, this will luckily no longer be the case. This is because the Department of Education has partnered with CUNY in recent years to create the CUNY Explorers program that will allow middle school students to visit CUNY colleges during the seventh grade.
As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “College for All” initiative, this program brings middle schoolers onto college campuses to show them what college can really be like — not an exclusive, demanding place but an inclusive, supportive setting.
The goal of the program isn’t just to show young students what higher education looks like, but to express to them that it can truly be a part of their future. “The driving message is that every student CAN go to college, every student can AFFORD college, and students and their families can take steps NOW to become college ready,” as stated on the CUNY Explorer’s Overview page.
CUNY Explorers is a beneficial development for New York City students, as it encourages all kids to aim for a college degree. During the 2018-2019 school year, the program hosted an estimated 70,000 junior high students, with an average of about 550 kids a day on CUNY campuses. What’s great about this program isn’t just that it encourages children from all schools, all across the five boroughs to consider college as a part of their future, but that it gives added support to those students who need it the most, such as District 75 students — kids with autism spectrum disorders, significant cognitive delays, emotional disturbances, sensory impairments and multiple disabilities — and District 79 students — students with court-orders and superintendent suspensions.
These often forgotten about youths will get the same opportunities to learn about and visit CUNY schools as the rest of the middle school population, which will increase their likelihood of going on to college in the future. It’s never too early to start thinking about college and your future, and the founders of the program clearly understand that. The CUNY Explorers program illustrates how realistic a college career is for middle schoolers.