May 10, 2006
By GRACE E. MERRITT, Courant Staff Writer
In an unusual partnership, a Massachusetts-based insurance company is pairing up with Hartford schools to send 60 high school seniors to the University of Connecticut over the next four years.
The MassMutual Foundation for Hartford is expected to announce today that it will donate $500,000 to the UConn Foundation to provide financial aid, a laptop and other support services for 15 seniors a year from Hartford public schools. The money would cover their expenses for a four-year period at UConn.
"We believe education is one of the most effective long-term ways we can help improve the community and help youngsters succeed," said Ronald Copes, executive director of the MassMutual Foundation for Hartford.
Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez praised Springfield-based MassMutual and said he hoped the partnership between the corporation, the city, its schools and the university would serve as a model for other companies.
"We know that for our city to be successful we have to make sure weincrease the amount of kids that go through college and come back into the workforce," Perez said. "They are committing to the kids for four years and giving them the support on the ground level," he said.
The program, which targets students who will become the first in their families to go to a four-year college, should help improve Hartford's college-bound rate. Last year, only 35 percent of Hartford's 766 graduating seniors attended four-year colleges.
"Our kids have a lot of challenges and barriers that their counterparts in the suburbs don't face," said Terry D'Italia, spokesman for Hartford public schools.
"It's not just poverty, but many are the first in their family to go to college. And many are family-oriented and haven't ever been away from home. Just going from Hartford to Storrs, that's a long way for them," D'Italia said.
The students will attend a six-week preparatory program over the summer to familiarize themselves with college life and the rigors of studying and will be paired up with mentors during their freshmen year, D'Italia said.
Besides providing an opportunity for Hartford students, the program will help UConn's efforts to diversify the student body. Now, currently 19 percent of the undergraduates are from minority groups.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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