SUNY Chancellor Johnson Launches Summer Residential Pilot to Provide Preview of College Experience to First Generation NYC High School Students

May 31, 2019

Heckscher Foundation for Children Funds Program for 50 Students at University at Albany and SUNY Potsdam this Summer

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson announced the launch of a summer residential pilot program for select first-generation New York City high school students sponsored by the Heckscher Foundation for Children. The three-week program to be held at University at Albany and SUNY Potsdam are designed to help prepare rising high school juniors and seniors for their transition to college at no cost and will provide students with a pre-college experience including skills training, college credits, and career exploration. About 50 students will be able to participate in the pilot.

"SUNY was founded to provide access to high-quality educational opportunities to all learners, and in doing so we also encourage students to enroll and prepare them to succeed, which is exactly what this pilot program sets out to do for high school students who will be the first in their families to attend college," said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. "My thanks to the Heckscher Foundation for supporting this critical work, and to the University at Albany and SUNY Potsdam for being the first SUNY campuses to participate."

According to a 2018 study by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, one-third of first-generation students dropped out of college after three years as compared with 14 percent of students whose parents earned a degree. The summer residential programs at University at Albany and SUNY Potsdam are designed to help acclimate students and prepare them for a college experience and will help build the confidence and skills necessary for degree completion. The program also sets to eliminate financial hurdles by providing the experience at no cost, and students will receive room and meals, transportation, and a $500 stipend.

"Living on a college campus for part of a summer prepares high school students for the college transition—but it is an expensive experience reserved for affluent and some selected families," said Peter Sloane, Chairman and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children. "In keeping with our venture philanthropy approach to grantmaking, this project enables underserved students, at no cost to them, to also experience exposure to campus life and college-level work, to obtain credits towards a degree, and, ultimately, to be better prepared to attend and succeed in college."

The University at Albany and SUNY Potsdam will design, host, and provide all program components, including housing, meals, faculty, and materials, among others. At UAlbany, the program will be held from July 14 to August 2, 2019. At SUNY Potsdam, students will participate from July 6 through July 27, 2019.

"UAlbany is very proud to offer these students an opportunity to experience all our campus has to offer through our new program, Project Achieve," said University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez. "As a first-generation college student myself, I can appreciate the impact a pre-college immersion program can have. The opportunity to take a class, meet with faculty, socialize with other students, and immerse yourself in a college environment will no doubt assist this cohort of students as they make their college selections and then acclimate to college life. We look forward to welcoming these future college students and to having them on our beautiful and exciting campus. This is exactly the type of activity that we would like to scale up in the future. We sincerely thank the Heckscher Foundation for Children and the SUNY Impact Fund for their partnership and for making this type of program available."

"We are grateful for the opportunity provided by the Heckscher Foundation to welcome 24 students to SUNY Potsdam’s ‘Learning U: Applied Learning Academy’ summer residential program," said SUNY Potsdam President Kristin G. Esterberg. "SUNY Potsdam has a long and successful history in both applied learning and student success. This program will allow students to explore different career paths, gain skills needed to be successful in college, and participate in a range of applied learning activities, while surrounded by a strong support system."

Program participants must attend a public high school in one of the five boroughs of New York City and demonstrate, through their application, the ambition to pursue a college education. Other requirements include a minimum grade point average of a B, sufficient credits to graduate on time, and nomination by the student’s high school. Each individual SUNY school identified program participants.

About Heckscher Foundation for Children

For nearly 100 years, the Heckscher Foundation for Children has worked to level the playing field for underserved youth, principally in New York. We support innovative, results-driven programs and partnerships, and focus our giving on education, including college access and persistence, workforce training and jobs access, and arts education that improves achievement in the classroom. Our venture philanthropy approach uses three principal funding strategies—catalytic giving, strategic partnerships, and targeted problem solving—that look for inflection points where our funding has the potential to change the course of a young person's life at a key juncture. Learn more at

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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