Beth Milne is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Happy ECHS Week everyone! We’re excited to recognize all of the amazing early college high schools from across our state that are changing how we prepare our students for success in college and beyond. Research shows that the rigorous coursework and the supportive transition from high school to college that define early college high schools are some of the most effective strategies for getting students to and through college. In honor of ECHS week, we’re featuring interviews from students and teachers from different ECHS programs in New York.

Ashley Fernandez is an 11th grader in the Roosevelt High School Smart Scholars Program where she participates in the Herbarium Project. Thanks to a special partnership with SUNY College at Old Westbury, the Smart Scholars report weekly to the college’s state-of-the-art greenhouse and science laboratory facilities for a Plants and Society course, where they learn about the scientific method and mathematical analysis through interactive projects.

Upon successful completion, high school students will earn four college credits and one high school credit for this course. The program is excited to present their Smart Scholars’ Herbariums at the annual STEM Diversity Summit at SUNY Farmingdale.

Here’s Ashley in her own words on what she loves about the Herbarium Project and why she believes in early college high schools:

NYCAN: How did you get involved in the Herbarium project?

Ashley: I got involved in the Herbarium project through an assignment given by my teacher, Dr. Bhatnagar. This was part of our college Plants and Society course. We were shown a presentation at SUNY College at Old Westbury based on plants. We also learned about their arrangements and identification. We were given the chance to form a group and pick our own plant to research and present on for the Herbarium project.

NYCAN: What’s your favorite part of the program and why?

Ashley: My favorite part of the Smart Scholars program is being able to travel to the college at Old Westbury. We are able to experience how life will be in college. Plus, we get to walk around campus to collect plant specimens. I feel like a real college student because I have a chance to be with real college students on a real college campus doing real college work.

NYCAN: What are your goals for college and beyond?

Ashley: My goals for college are to study hard and become a nurse. Beyond college, I hope to make my parents proud and care for them when they’re elderly as they cared for me in my young age. I know that through my education I can achieve my goals. Programs like this make it possible for me because my family does not have the means to do it alone.

NYCAN: How do you think your participation in the Herbarium Project will help you achieve those goals?

Ashley: I believe through the Herbarium project I was able to gain knowledge about diverse plants. I learned how to expand my knowledge of discovery and research. I was also able to work as a group leader and organize my information in a presentable manner. I also learned how all these skills will help me in the field of management I plan to pursue in college. I learned to manage my time to get the work completed on time.

Be sure to tune in for a new interview every day and don’t forget to show your support for these awesome programs by sharing these stories with the tag #ECHSWeek!


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