With visions of their dream colleges in mind, hundreds of high school students and their parents gathered at Plymouth North High School on Oct. 3 for the kickoff of “Go Public,” a statewide campaign that puts the spotlight on public colleges and universities in Massachusetts.
The new initiative, sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, encourages students to continue their education at state-run institutions through a series of free seminars that show what public colleges and universities have to offer.
One of the goals of the campaign is “to have students feeling a sense of pride about choosing to ‘Go Public’ rather than just attend a state U or community college as a less costly option,” said Katy Abel, associate commissioner for external affairs at the department.
“Go Public” also promotes the concept of college readiness, and urges students to take enough math and science classes in high school so they are ready for college by the time they graduate.
According to Abel, one-third of college freshmen are not prepared for college-level work.
The “Go Public” kickoff, attended by about 450 people, was the first in a series of free seminars that will be held across the state this fall.
It was hosted by state Senate President Therese Murray and featured guest speakers from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Massasoit Community College, and Bridgewater State University.
The seminar included a two-minute video highlighting the state’s educational institutions, in which Governor Deval Patrick reminded students to take three years of lab sciences and four years of math — a requirement for admission to state universities beginning in 2016.
Prospective college applicants had the opportunity to meet admission officers, ask questions, and learn about the application process and financial aid.
They also got to hear from current college students such as Nick Paradiso, a 20-year-old Brockton resident who is in his third year of studies at Massasoit Community College.
Paradiso told the audience how he went to Massasoit after graduating from Foxborough Regional Charter School in 2010, at the same time many of his friends were going off to private universities. When he first enrolled at Massasoit, Paradiso said, his thoughts were focused on getting out, and transferring as soon as he could.
But his experience at Massasoit has turned out to be much different than what he expected.
“As I’ve stayed here and gotten to know people, the faculty, and my classmates, I have to say, it’s one of the best moves I ever made,” he said.
Paradiso is heavily involved in student life on campus. In addition to his classes, he works as a writing tutor, serves as president of the honors program association, and helps organize student activities and community service projects. He said he’s glad he chose Massasoit, because he enjoys the diverse student body and sense of community there.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” he said.
His advice for college-bound students: Keep an open mind.
State officials are hoping the new “Go Public” campaign will help students do just that.
“We’re launching ‘Go Public’ at a time when many of our campuses are seeing record enrollment gains,” said Richard M. Freeland, the state’s higher education commissioner, in a press release.
“Our goal with this effort is to make sure that students who look to public higher education are ready for the academic rigor of our programs and are excited about the many opportunities that await them at our campuses across the Commonwealth.”
The next “Go Public” event will be held Oct. 18 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Haverhill High School, and a special session for military veterans will be held Nov. 8 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown.
The sessions are free, and prospective college applicants of all ages are encouraged to attend.
For more information, visit www.mass.edu/gopublic.Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.