Gateway to success

By Jim Danko

Savanah Freidus dreams of one day becoming a medical doctor.

As a Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) biology student seeking an associate degree with the goal of transferring to a four-year college or university, she’s at the beginning of her journey. She’s excited about being a STCC college student and credits the alternative high school program Gateway to College for helping her get on the right track.

“Gateway created a difference in my life by offering me another chance for graduating,” Freidus said. “Gateway also helped shape my opinion and point of view when it comes to alternative schools. Gateway was different and gave me that gentle push to finish high school and pursue my dream career.”

Gateway to College at STCC is an alternative to a traditional high school experience that gives students the opportunity to complete their high school graduation requirements at a college-based program while simultaneously earning college credits.

While attending Gateway, Freidus came across “amazing opportunities.” She met staff, faculty and fellow students who supported and encouraged her.

“It all felt like a close-knit family,” she said.

She was involved in activities such as a wellness group. She went on memorable trips such as a whale watching expedition and trip to the beach.

“This helped me tremendously as it pushed me out of my comfort zones, and helped me with my social anxiety by having me face it in a fun setting,” Freidus said. “Gateway helped prepare me for life during college and gave me the resources and first-hand experience on what to do to succeed in college.”

Freidus said she was shy and reserved and had trouble making friends before coming to Gateway. “Through Gateway I met two of my best friends here who changed my life for good. I will always remember orientation through Gateway as that was the day where I met the people who I now call family,” she said.

This fall semester at STCC, besides taking classes, she also helps out at Gateway as a work-study student. “My plans for the future are to pursue medical school and earn an M.D.,” she said.

Offering an alternative

Katara Robinson, director of Gateway to College at STCC, said Freidus’ experience reflects how the program supports the STCC mission.

“We are happy that we could be a part of Savanah’s school experience and support, guide, and encourage her in her transition from high school to college, and alter her perception and definition of alternative schooling. We aim to provide a successful school experience, and transform students’ lives,” Robinson said.

Anita Gallers, academic counselor with the Gateway to College program, said Freidus represented Gateway at the Springfield Public Schools graduation in June as the student speaker.

“She gave a rousing, inspirational speech about the importance of alternative schools,” Gallers said. “After graduation, she was also the recipient of a scholarship through the Gateway program that paid for her EMT (emergency medical technician) training this past summer.”

Freidus encourages students who are seeking an alternative to high school in Springfield to consider Gateway to College, which is ideal for students who face challenges in a traditional high school for any number of reasons. They may have left school before finishing or may be attending homeschool or a school other than the public school.

Through the Gateway to College scholarship, students have the opportunity to complete their high school graduation requirements at a college-based program while simultaneously earning college credits. Students earn their high school diploma and college credits at the same time. Some also continue on to finish certificate programs, associate degrees, and transfer to four-year colleges.

“I would tell anyone interested in the program to not wait and sign up,” Freidus said. “This program changed the course of my life and I came out as a better person because of it. Another thing I would mention to anyone is that Gateway is a community of people, all here to help support, and encourage one another. We truly aim to see and draw out the best in people here at Gateway.”

This article originally appeared here.

Jim Danko

is the assistant director of communications at Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, Massachusetts.