SUNY Oswego will welcome 180 high school students from New York City, Long Island, the North Country and points across the state to campus July 6 to 8 for Camp College, an important step toward college access -- and college success.

A diverse group on several levels -- geographically, culturally, racially and socioeconomically, as well as their interests academically -- the students will encounter a wide array of higher education options, thanks to the participation of representatives of about 30 colleges and universities statewide.

Many of the students would be the first in their families to attend college; some will be on their first-ever journey away from home, said Emmanuel Cruz, SUNY Oswego's assistant director admissions in New York City and a Camp College mentor for several years on other campuses.

"This will be a unique opportunity for us as a college community to not only showcase our beautiful campus, but to also give students a greater understanding of college life and provide them with support in navigating their way through the college process," Cruz said.

This summer marks the first year two SUNY schools will host sessions of Camp College, established in 1999 by the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling and regarded nationally as a premier pre-college experience. SUNY Geneseo will host the other Camp College session Aug. 3 to 5.

"It's a robust three-day weekend," said Cruz, who is coordinating Camp College for first-time host Oswego, with the assistance of the association's organizers and mentors.

On the schedule: Class simulations delivered by SUNY Oswego full-time faculty, group informational workshops with 60 mentors from colleges and community-based organizations around the state, two nights in Hart Hall Global Living and Learning Center, meals in Cooper Dining Hall, a college fair and fun activities -- salsa dancing, an ice cream social, a DJ dance party -- aimed at building bonds among students and mentors.

“We are delighted to host Camp College for the first time this summer,” said Daniel Griffin, SUNY Oswego alumnus and director of admissions. “As a first-generation college student myself, the importance of early college awareness and the message 'you can do this' is something very near and dear to my heart.”

Providing access

Amber Long, co-director of Camp College, said she's looking forward to the first-ever session at Oswego. She emphasized that the attendees are widely diverse, and most will graduate from high school ready and able to enroll in a four-year college anywhere in the state. The experience is intended to enable the students "to think through all of their college options and to highlight all of the opportunities that exist across the state."

Nicola Fennel, college access and success coordinator for StreetSquash in Harlem, said she has attended "eight or so" sessions of Camp College, delivered at Marist and Canisius colleges and SUNY schools Delhi and Potsdam. Fennel and mentors from several other community-based organizations will band together to accompany dozens of New York City-area students to Oswego.

"It's really a fun weekend," said Fennel. "Camp College shows a host college's commitment to helping pull people up by their bootstraps. It's a financial commitment for the host -- it's putting your 'money where your mouth is' and providing access to college experiences for students of color."

Camp College has the capacity to enhance SUNY Oswego's years-long effort to substantially increase the diversity of its student body. Last fall, Oswego enrolled its most culturally diverse student population ever: 28 percent self-identified as Hispanic, Asian, African American, Native American, Pacific Islander or multiethnic. That included a first-year class of nearly 35 percent on this measure of diversity -- 15 percentage points higher than in 2010.

For students who might not quite be ready for the move to a four-year school, Camp College mentor Sandra Montalvo of Oswego's Office of Admissions hopes also to shine a light on the program she coordinates, Start Now. It's a unique partnership between SUNY Oswego and Jefferson Community College and Onondaga Community College.

Start Now allows students from the New York City area to begin their college career at JCC or OCC and live in a campus residence hall there. When they're ready, they can apply to transfer to SUNY Oswego as early as their sophomore year to earn a bachelor's degree. 

"Perhaps a student is not as prepared for a four-year program or doesn't meet our requirements," Montalvo said. "Mentoring at Camp College allows me to have those conversations and build those relationships (for Start Now or similar programs across SUNY)."

For more information about Camp College, visit the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling.