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NewsAug 1, 2018

Summer program, scholarships open path to Lesley

High school students take creative courses, earn college credit, learn from university professors

Rocky Cotard with four high school students from the program, standing in front of art at the final showcase.
Paolina Fornari, Samantha Skobeleff, Rocky Cotard ’18, Stephanie Lima and Xzaivier Cartagena at the culminating event of the program, the Final Student Showcase.

By Georgia Sparling

Our College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Art and Design are giving high school students — many from lower-income families — early access to often-elusive art, design and writing courses, university professors and college credit.

Aeryn Rowe, a 15-year-old Somerville resident in the fiction writing course, joined the program to explore something new.

“I already knew I had an interest, I just didn’t know where to take it,” she said. “I think this class will help me be inspired.”

The inaugural Summer Pre-College Program welcomed more than 40 rising sophomores, juniors and seniors from 29 high schools and youth programs around Greater Boston. Of those students, more than half received full or partial scholarships, a crucial component of the program.

“We’re trying to make a clear path to opportunities at Lesley and to college in general, particularly for students and families who might not consider it an option,” said Katherine Shozawa, the director of Community Engagement for the College of Art and Design.

A female student holds up a large photo print of a man with his arms up surrounded by what looks to be porcelein heads against a black backdrop.
Adriana Farrell experimented with photography in the Darkroom Essentials course taught by Brian Unwin.

For talented, low-income students taking art and design courses, College of Art and Design Dean Richard Zauft and the school’s Office of Community Engagement offered scholarships funded by the Ralph Bradley Prizes and Richard and Jean Coyne Family Foundation. Scholarship recipients included students affiliated with the Boston-based Artists for Humanity (founded by Lesley alumna Susan Rodgerson). College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Shapiro also established a scholarship fund for students taking humanities courses.

Nineteen students received scholarships to attend art and design courses, and two students received partial or full scholarships from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean’s fund.

“Offering these kinds of programs for low-income students at no cost is awesome,” said program coordinator Jen Serowick. “It’s just part of the bridge building to eliminate the barriers that lower-income students often face.”

For the pilot year, the two schools offered eight courses, ranging from screenwriting and fiction writing to animation essentials and darkroom techniques. Students could earn up to four college credits while also taking courses from Lesley faculty. Several recent graduates, including Rocky Cotard, Anne Abbruzzese and Nancy Marcel, also taught or assisted in the courses.

Nancy Marcel stands behidn a student who is looking at their artwork on a lightbox.
Lesley graduate Nancy Marcel ’18 guides students in one of the art and design courses.

The real-world college experience as well as the location enticed 17-year-old Gabby Fargnoli.

“You have a bunch of nice people to work with, and you get the school’s actual professors to work with, so you get more of a college experience,” said Fargnoli, who took the Darkroom Techniques course.

Aeryn Rowe, a 15-year-old Somerville resident in the fiction writing course, joined the program to explore something new.

“I already knew I had an interest, I just didn’t know where to take it,” she said. “I think this class will help me be inspired.”

The small classes (none larger than 12 students) allowed faculty to shape the courses based on the interests and range of abilities of the students.

The budding authors in professor Chris Clark’s fiction course told him they wanted to do more writing exercises, so he adjusted his lectures to accommodate them.

“I’m happy to help them learn about it any way that they want,” said Clark. “If they want to do more writing, then we’ll do more writing.”

A close-up pencil drawing with the artist's freckled hand holding a pencil.
Rocky Cotard ’18 taught Comics and the Graphic Novel, inspiring students with field trips to galleries and other local sites.

Ultimately, the hope is that many students in the summer program will return to Lesley as undergraduates after getting a taste of the teaching style and facilities.

It worked for faculty member Brian Unwin, who taught the darkroom course this summer.

“I think it’s important for students who are interested in the arts to have the opportunity to work in a space like this with working artists and working art students,” he said. “In 1994, I took a pre-college course … and now I’m back teaching here.”

An image of unframed artwork on the wall, taken from the other side of floor length glass wall/windows.
Students' artwork was on display at the Lunder Art Center for the Final Showcase.

Looking ahead, Serowick would like to see the program expand in both offerings and scope.

“It’s a good way for Lesley to give back to Cambridge by offering these kind of programs right here in town,” she said.