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RAMP Program Offering Boston Youth Education and Opportunity This Summer

woman in a classroom

RAMP students and mentors as seen in this file photo (Photo by Webb Chappell)

Recent high school graduates in Boston are faced with a sobering reality this summer: the COVID-19 pandemic has suspended many educational programs and the prospect of finding a paying seasonal job is slim at best.

But where other opportunities have dried up, Wentworth Institute of Technology’s RAMP program is finding record enrollment, ready to educate and provide a stipend to more than 60 City of Boston residents who have committed to Wentworth in the fall, an increase after a record 46 RAMP participants last year.

Entering its tenth year, RAMP officially kicked off on July 6. Virtual programming will take place through the month of July with on-campus classes and workshops currently planned for August for a total of eight weeks. The typical six-week bridge program serves as a way for students from underfunded schools to familiarize themselves with college coursework through meeting with mentors, receiving front-line academic instruction and taking on project-based learning activities.

“Statistically, Boston students have a hard time with that adjustment, and we want to take away barriers that would get in the way of their success,” said Rebecca Drossman, assistant director of college access for Wentworth’s Center for Community and Learning Partnerships (CLP). “Students build a network of friends and mentors and navigate their way through campus.”

Drossman notes that awareness of RAMP has been spreading through word of mouth and that Wentworth’s relationships with Boston-area schools have grown stronger in recent years.

Boston enrollment is significantly higher in general this year with 130 students who hail from the city enrolling in Wentworth compared to just over 70 last year. The increase is financial aid offered has helped with the growth, but it is also due to the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence and sustained work to build a pipeline to inner-city schools through college access programs including RAMP, dual credit and the newly announced “Year 13” courses.

“As an institute of higher education, it’s imperative we do these types of programs,” said Erik Miller, director of CLP. “If every institution did more intentional work with local youth, we wouldn’t see as many of these students leave college.”

RAMP students traditionally focus on a specific topic, working with peer mentors and external organizations on real-world ventures. Past projects have involved collaborations with the Boston Children’s Museum and Franklin Park Zoo.

RAMP is focusing this year on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on basic human needs. The CLP team is holding official check-ins with every RAMP student each week, and they have partnered with the Center for Diversity and Social Justice Programs to support this individualized support. The safety of the students and staff is also being strongly considered amid the pandemic.

“We conducted a survey to see how comfortable students are with coming to campus right now and provided space to share any concerns and meet them where they're at,” said Miller. “If they want to stay home, we'll still have a way to provide a beneficial opportunity.”

In September, the education research and policy group the Rennie Center published their “Early College Blueprint” guide, citing Wentworth’s partnership with the City of Boston as a shining example of preparing high school students for college. The group also planned to release a comprehensive report on RAMP this summer. And most recently, the Cummings Foundation awarded Wentworth a $100,000 grant to increase the university’s academic and socio-emotional support for Boston youth.

“We’re trying to make this a better city,” said Miller, “and close some of the gaps that exist.”

--Greg Abazorius