“I had a number of options but didn’t want to be in debt the first couple of years of college so I chose Montgomery College at Germantown with the idea of studying very hard and transferring to the Smith School of Business at UMD,” says Gaby Maya, a 2018 Watkins Mill High School (WMHS) graduate and freshman business student at Montgomery College.
Since opening more than two years ago, the CollegeTracks program at WMHS has helped nearly 400 students like Gaby go to college. The first cohort is now entering its sophomore year at colleges all over the United States, with many kicking off their higher education careers at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College.
Joselyn Morales, who graduated from WMHS in June 2018 and wants to be a forensic scientist, says she chose to start at MC-Germantown so she could be near family and professionals who can support her during her first year in college.
“The first year can be especially stressful as a first-generation student,” she says. “My mother didn’t go to college so she doesn’t understand the admissions process or the pressures of college life.”
While her mother has pushed her to move forward with her education, she says working with CollegeTracks is so important since she cannot count on help from her own family.
“I am lucky to have Coach Nneka of CollegeTracks at my side to answer all of my questions about college—what courses to take so I can transfer to a four-year school to complete my criminal justice degree, how to keep my financial aid in place and how to manage the stress of my first semester of college,” she says.
To accommodate the growing cohort of students going to MC-Germantown from WMHS, CollegeTracks has assigned Nneka Onyilofor to support those CollegeTracks Success students with academic, financial aid and personal challenges.
Onyilofor, who has been assisting first-generation students with transition to college for many years, says that students like Joselyn have so much potential, but the cost of higher education and the logistics of the college process can be overwhelming—sometimes to the point where they are so confused they do not move forward to earn a life-changing college degree.
“I am really excited to be working with the students at Watkins Mill,” says Onyilofor. “They are so eager and hardworking. I find that many have decided to stay close to home and go to MC-Germantown because it is economical and has a beautiful new campus with a wonderful staff and exciting resources.”
CollegeTracks expects both its high school Access program at WMHS and its Success program at MC-Germantown to grow in the year ahead. In fact, the need in the Gaithersburg-Germantown area is so great that CollegeTracks will open a new site to serve students at Quince Orchard High School.
Help Students in the Gaithersburg-Germantown Area Go to College
At the moment, CollegeTracks has an urgent need for ACT test prep tutors at WMHS, but also welcomes inquiries about volunteer assistance at the high school and college levels. For more information or to explore volunteer opportunities at CollegeTracks, e-mail Michele Parsonnet at firstname.lastname@example.org.