Manchester, CT – (May 18, 2006) . . . Our nation is facing a critical shortage of minority scientists and, in response to this growing issue, the STRONG-CT program at Manchester Community College is working diligently to increase the number of minority and first generation college students obtaining degrees in the life sciences.

The Science and Technology Reaching Out to New Generations in Connecticut (STRONG-CT) program targets minority and first generation college students that have an interest in obtaining a degree and pursuing a career in the life sciences.

The program is funded through a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation and represents an alliance between the University of Connecticut, Manchester Community College, Quinebaug Valley Community College and Three Rivers Community College. Students in the STRONG-CT program will earn an associate degree at one of the selected community colleges before transferring to UConn for a baccalaureate degree. Examples of degree programs in the life sciences include: Agriculture and Natural Resources, Animal Science, Biological Sciences, Environmental Science, Physiology and Neurobiology.

Manchester Community College currently has five students in varying stages of the program. The over-arching goal is to grow the program to at least 10 students at each community college by Fall 2006. At MCC, Sandra Ruiz, of Hartford, is expected to graduate in May and transfer to the College of Liberal Arts at UConn to continue her studies in life sciences.

“Although the program just started, it has helped me remarkably with the process of transferring to UConn,” stated Ruiz. “It was during the Inauguration of the First Student Class held at Storrs, where I had the chance to receive complete information about the curriculum for biology majors and how it can be geared towards one’s personal interest. Professor Eric Schultz, from UConn’s department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, sat down with me and went over the UConn catalog, explaining to me in detail about the major requirements for a biology degree. The STRONG-CT program truly is a support system for students involved in the life sciences. One can receive help from a personal mentor, the project coordinator, the program director and from UConn graduate students,” stated Ruiz.

Sharale Walker, coordinator of the STRONG-CT program for MCC, is currently visiting area high schools and talking to counselors and students to promote the program. “There is a tremendous need for minority students in the sciences and this program can take steps to bridge the gap that is currently present in the industry,” stated Walker. Once enrolled in the program, the STRONG-CT students receive support services to guide them through their educational process and provide practical knowledge in life sciences.

The main components of the STRONG-CT program are the rigorous individual and group academic support for the core science and math courses, mentoring relationships through research opportunities, leadership workshops, outreach projects that allow the students to bring what they have learned back to their communities, and career counseling to become fully aware of the possibilities after graduation.

“We are preparing to diversify our regional workforce and industry with talented future scientists,” stated Eleanor Weseloh, Director of the Mathematics, Science and Health Careers Division at Manchester Community College. “This is an exciting time for the college and the region.”

Students who are interested in enrolling in the STRONG-CT program must meet the community college or UConn admissions requirements and be eligible for college level work in mathematics and English. In addition, applicants must intend to pursue life sciences and be first generation college students or part of a historically underrepresented group in the field of science, including African Americans, Latinos or Native Americans.

For more information on the STRONG-CT program at Manchester Community College, contact Sharale Walker or Eleanor Weseloh at 860-512-2703.

Students of any age who possess the desire to pursue higher education are welcome at Manchester Community College. MCC is proud of its academic excellence, new facilities, flexible schedules, small classes, low tuition and faculty with both academic and “real world” credentials. The College offers over 60 programs, transfer options, financial aid and scholarships, as well as access to baccalaureate degrees through guaranteed admissions programs with several universities. MCC is situated on a park-like campus and is easily accessible from I-84.