Support in numbers

Monday, December 31, 2012

APP reunion highlights 25 years of opportunities.

When freshman Darryl Howard arrived on campus from Tampa, Fla., last summer for the 25th annual Advanced Preparation Program class, he had a unique advantage over other classmates newly far from home. His mother, an alumnus of the acclaimed program that is one of many St. Cloud State resources to support student success, had clued him in on the advantages his APP experience would offer.

“She told me it would give me a good head start for college,” said Howard, a psychology major who runs track for the Huskies and works part time in the Multicultural Student Services office. “She was right. APP helped me get used to campus and decide what college was all about. I learned how to manage my time and be positive. I got to meet a lot of people like the president. I made friends.”

When Howard’s mom, Stephanie Kelley ’99, arrived at St. Cloud State from Rockford, Ill., in 1995 she experienced the pangs of loneliness and anxiety most freshman have when they leave friends, family and the familiarity of their hometowns for college life. And like the other 600-plus freshmen who have participated in APP she quickly assimilated, learning her way around campus and how to juggle classes and activities. She developed lasting friendships.

When it came time for her son to choose a college, Kelley wanted Howard to have the same advantages of being part of a close community of students who feel comfortable and welcome within the broader campus community.

Kelley was among the 60 APP alumni who returned to campus Aug. 3 for the 25th anniversary reunion of the award-winning Multicultural Student Services program that helps incoming first-year students — many of them students of color — make a smoother transition to college life. For most it was a life-altering experience.

Saengmany Ratsabout ’04 and his wife Gao Lee ’04, Brooklyn Park, have APP to thank for their life as a couple. They metas members of the class of 2000 and eventually married. They brought their son and daughter to the reunion. Another couple, Blia (Thor) Xiong ’09 and Dan Xiong, now from Blaine, also married as a result of their shared experience in the 2004 APP class.

Also among the program’s 600 alumni are numerous siblings and others with family ties. Like Kelley, they passed along to younger family members their APP memories.

Those memories were hot topics at the reunion as alumni renewed friendships with fellow APP participants from as far back as the first class in 1988. They mingled with Darryl and the 48 other members of the 2012 APP class of incoming students and discovered how much they had in common. The vast majority of alumni and students had the same answer when asked what their most memorable APP experience had been: “The Camping Trip” that was a first for many.

“APP gave me a better understanding of my own identity,” said BernaDette Wilson-Suwareh ’93 ’96, director of the Intercultural Center and Student Human Rights Office at the College of Saint Benedict and member of the 1988 class. “It helped me become the person I am now,” said Wilson-Suwareh, who previously served as associate vice president for Student Life and Development at St. Cloud State. “APP helped me build confidence, accept who I was and work with other people.”

The APP program was started in 1988 by the late Robert Broadus. “The foundation has remained the same,” said Multicultural Student Services Director Shahzad Ahmad ’90 ’03. “It works.”

“It’s amazing how much of a difference three or four weeks can make in the transition from high school to university mindset,” Ahmad said of the program. “It just happens.”

For Jenny Yang, 2012 APP class member and first in her family to go to school outside her home town of St. Paul, APP was a tremendous bridge experience. “At first I was really scared,” she said. “The first night I called my boyfriend at 4 a.m. and cried. But after a while I started connecting with friends. APP taught me to discipline myself. It taught us everything is really up to me. I had a great time.”

“I’m glad I came,” said Akosua (Nana) Adu Danwa, Bloomington, who packed a lot of learning into the program’s three weeks. “I made friends with Dr. (Luke) Tripp and other faculty and staff. They taught me study habits. I improved my writing. I didn’t know how to swim when I came, but I learned how to float. I meta lot of people from other countries. I made a friend.”

Brianna Walker, an incoming freshman from Oahu, Hawaii, said her three-week experience of taking classes, getting familiar with the campus and launching lifetime friendships has taught her what college can do for her. “I’ve always been a reserved person,” she said. “College is about growing — realizing that making a change is being the change.”

- Marsha Shoemaker

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