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Meet the STARS of Notre Dame College
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Meet the STARS of Notre Dame College

“I was so nervous,” recalled Rita Kiousis remembering her first day at Notre Dame College. As a first generation college student, her feelings were understandable. “In my head, I had an image of what college was going to be like through what other people had told me. I really hoped it would be everything I imagined.”

Kiousis, a middle childhood education major, was one of four freshmen to enroll at Notre Dame College last fall from the Student Teachers Achieving Real Success (S.T.A.R.S.) program. Joining her were fellow education majors Dana McFadden and Olajuwon Anthony and English major James White. Like Kiousis, these students are also first generation college students from the Cleveland Municipal School District who dream of one day becoming teachers.

All four freshmen learned about Notre Dame College through their participation in S.T.A.R.S. The week long summer program allowed them to experience college life first hand through simulated classes, field trips and planned activities. “Being in the program helped out a lot,” said McFadden. “S.T.A.R.S. served as a bridge to Notre Dame College.”
 
S.T.A.R.S. was also helpful in eliminating some of the misconceptions they held about college; and those misconceptions were plentiful. “You hear so many teachers in high school who say that in college is completely different; that it will be this way or that way,” said Anthony. “It turns out that they are usually describing life at a big university, not a small school like Notre Dame.”

According to White, who plans to one day teach English at the college level, his exposure to Notre Dame through S.T.A.R.S. helped his transition during the first semester at college. “I always imagined college as very impersonal experience, kind of like you see in the movies where you can miss class for days without anybody noticing. But at Notre Dame, the teachers and counselors I met in S.T.A.R.S. are right here helping me each day. It’s nothing like the movies. It’s really a great feeling.”

The students came to Notre Dame with career goals focused on the field of professional education. According to a 2005 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the students’ interest in this field bucks the trend for first generation students who typically select vocational or business majors or simply enter as undeclared. The motivation behind these freshman students’ choices is quite powerful. McFadden, for example believes that a teacher truly can change the course of a student’s life. “I struggled with science when I was in middle school. In fifth grade, my science teacher took time each day to sit down and help me with the material until I understood what was being taught. I want to be a teacher like that. Middle school kids are at an age when they are just finding out who they are. I want to help them; to impact their lives in a positive way.”