Diocesan News

Bay Ridge Kids to Get Early Glimpse of College

St. Francis College President Dr. Miguel Martinez-Saenz (right) visited teacher Joseph Hernandez (left) and his fourth grade class. St. Francis College Assistant Vice President Robert Oliva (second from left) and Bay Ridge Catholic Academy Principal Gary Williams both said they’re excited about the new partnership. (Photo: Diocese of Brooklyn)

BAY RIDGE — It’s never too early for students to start thinking about college — even children in kindergarten. That’s the thinking behind a unique new partnership between Bay Ridge Catholic Academy and St. Francis College.

The joint venture, announced by officials from the two schools on Feb. 9, will include St. Francis College students coming to Bay Ridge Catholic Academy to serve as student-teachers, an after-school foreign language program for academy students and field trips to visit science and communication labs on the St. Francis College campus in Brooklyn Heights.

Also in the works is a summer program featuring science lessons, CPR training and an electronics boot camp.

And it’s all free.

The program, which gets fully under way in March, will benefit both institutions, officials said.

“The students at St. Francis College will have the opportunity to come in and be role models for these young folks,” said Dr. Miguel Martinez-Saenz, president of St. Francis College, who visited Bay Ridge Catholic Academy on Feb. 9 to help launch the partnership.

“I know this will be a flourishing experience and I know the students at Bay Ridge Catholic Academy will benefit immensely,” said Dr. Gary Williams, the academy’s principal.

“We are eager to embark on this distinguished alliance to advance the educational opportunities at our school,” Williams added.

The partnership is the only one of its kind between St. Francis College and an elementary school.

If it gets children excited about the idea of going to college years before they actually enroll, so much the better, officials said.

“Building these kinds of relationships is important and it is never too early to engage students. It was inspiring to see the future right in front of us, and I think we have an obligation to get that future oriented in a positive way,” Martinez-Saenz said.

The collaboration fits in perfectly with an ongoing effort by St. Francis College to encourage students to work in the community and make a difference in the world, said Robert Oliva, the college’s assistant vice president.

“This partnership allows us to do that, whether by student teachers, mentors, tutors, or simply having Bay Ridge Catholic Academy students experience a day in the life of a college student,” he added.

St. Francis College officials came up with the idea for the partnership and Oliva visited the academy earlier this month to make a formal presentation to the school’s board of directors.

“When it was first brought up to us, there wasn’t even a discussion about it. We told them, ‘Yes, definitely,’ said board chairman Vincent Iannelli. “It’s got to be the best thing that’s ever happened to the school.”