By Lisa James Goldsberry
Cathlen Poulard, a junior who is double majoring in biology and French, wants to go to medical school and become a doctor. Senior Theodore Adams, a social welfare major, hopes to earn a master's degree and open his own practice as a chemical dependency counselor. Anuola Hercules, who graduated last May, dreams of opening several low-cost day-care centers in Brooklyn for teenage mothers who want to continue school.
With the help of Second Chance Scholarships at the University at Albany, all three are now closer to their goals.
Since it was instituted in 1997, the Second Chance Scholarship program has distributed more than $30,000 to 30 students, according to Carson Carr, Jr., assistant vice president for academic affairs and director of Albany's Educational Opportunities Program, who oversees the program. The awards, which range from $500 to $1,500, help disadvantaged students who are identified as having the potential and desire to continue their formal education, but do not have the financial resources. The University is the latest addition to the program, which was established by the Joseph J. Mastrangelo & Ralph Arnold Foundation in Schenectady and got its start at Hudson Valley Community College in 1995. More than 100 members of the faculty and staff contribute donations for the program to help the campus meet the Foundation's requirement for matching funds.
"When we tell students that they have received these scholarships, they are elated that someone is giving them some attention and support," Carr said. To qualify, students complete an application, which includes a personal essay. Recipients are informed in the spring, but are told that the amount will depend on the grades they earn.
Without their Second Chance Scholarships, many recipients would have to drop out of school, get extra jobs, or take out more loans.
"This program really helps people like me who do not get enough financial aid to pay for essentials like tuition and books without having to work so many hours that our grades suffer. It takes away some of the stress," said Poulard, whose goal is to become a physician and return to her native Haiti, which has a scarcity of doctors.
Another May graduate, Robin Mills, is now working on her master's degree in rehabilitative counseling in the Educational Psychology Department. She has an associate's degree in chemical dependency counseling from Hudson Valley Community College, but says she wanted to do more.
"I believe that when people have a problem, it affects the whole family, so I want to be able to help the whole family, not just the individual with the problem," said Mills, who is from Brooklyn and has five children and a grandchild. The scholarship. she said, allowed her to go to school full-time and graduate.
For Latoya Taitt, the scholarship "revived my faith in myself." When she received it, she was living in an apartment with her mother, sister, and 3-year-old son, and was responsible for paying a majority of the bills. With a new apartment, she now has her own space and time in which to study. "The scholarship is true to its name. Just knowing that I got it encouraged me to stick it out," she said.
A Force for Change When Carson Carr, Jr. arrived at the University in 1985, the graduation rate for Educational Opportunities Program students was "somewhere around 25 percent," he recalls. One of the goals he set for himself was to double that. Over each of the last five years, the EOP graduation rate has been 50 percent or better impressive figures, given that EOP students are considered academically non-admissible and come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The University also has one of the highest graduation rates of the 50 EOP programs in the State University of New York system.
It is, by Carr's own admission, one of his greatest success stories, but his impact has been campus-wide, and he has become one of the University's most respected administrators and a force for change.
"Carson Carr's very presence enlivens and enlarges the discussion in the room, the programs in the University, and the University in the nation," said Gloria DeSole, special assistant to the President for Affirmative Action.
Under Carr's leadership, the University has implemented six new services to help not just EOP students but all students, including an extensive study-group plan, an academic "early warning" program, the Faculty Mentoring Program, a study skills manual, and an independent tutoring program written by Carr and given to every freshman. The 32-page booklet is an easy read on topics such as time management and listening effectively.
For his work with the EOP, Carr recently received a special citation from the State Assembly. Introduced by Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve of Buffalo, creator of the EOP, it said, in part, "Dr. Carson Carr has dedicated decades to the pursuit of higher education and has distinguished himself as a leader in his role as Director of the EOP at Albany." Carr was also the recipient of a President's Excellence in Professional Service Award from the University in 1992.
Carson Carr meets with undergraduate Nyamekye Barton
"Carson Carr is a treasure at this University," said Judy Genshaft, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "He is an excellent leader who cares about the success of all his programs. We are very proud that he is part of the University at Albany family."
Carr, who grew up in Philadelphia, said his interest in higher education stems from being a member of a family of seven on public assistance. "I grew up with a single mother who only had a third-grade education, but who realized the importance of higher education. She encouraged all of us to go to college and become responsible members of the community," Carr said.
He received his bachelor's degree from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, his master's degree from Seton Hall University, and an Ed.D. in educational management from Syracuse University.
His reward, Carr says, is watching his students succeed. "Seeing students go on to be successful people and contributing members of society, and letting them know that Albany is a place where they can succeed, is something that I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of."