serena seepersaud’s experience at Connecticut River Academy

Serena’s Story: Optimistic on her path to opportunity

How former CTRA scholar and first-generation soon-to-be Goodwin graduate found hope for her future in high school
by Serena Seepersaud

Nervous for new beginnings

The thought of starting high school was daunting, and, like most 13- and 14-year-olds, I was no exception to the almost mandatory anxiety. My fingers tapped rapidly against the edges of my school bus seat, a dead giveaway of the butterflies in my stomach.

But just minutes after I stepped down the bus stairs and walked through the double doors of Connecticut River Academy (CTRA), the fear and anticipation I felt were quickly replaced with wonderment and awe. Not only did the high-rise ceilings and diverse student body catch me off guard, but the rows of flags that hung over the atrium from countries all over the world made a young, immigrant woman like myself catch her breath.

The refreshing feelings of inclusivity and belonging flooded me. The thought of calling this place my own for the next four years was enough to make anyone craving an exceptional education excited.

Before Connecticut River Academy, the neighborhood schools I attended had paint-chipped walls and low lighting. All my classmates at previous places of learning fit into a similar demographic, so my first few days at CTRA took some getting used to. No longer was I crammed into classrooms with identical rows of single-filed student desks or learning from heavy textbooks lugged around from period to period.

At Connecticut River Academy, I met some of the most unique people I have ever encountered within the school’s walls. I became friends with CTRA scholars who were geographically spread out across the state of Connecticut, and it was mind-boggling.

Through newly formed friendships, I learned of cities and counties that previously I didn’t even know existed. I met other children of immigrants and immigrants themselves and learned from educators who looked like me and those who didn’t. I ate with scholars who had lunches that looked different from mine and observed friendships from opposite socio-economic backgrounds.

Being a part of the CTRA community meant that I was surrounded by people who embraced their individuality. During Black History Month, I watched in admiration as my classmates danced to the sounds of their countries of origin and spoke in the cadences of their native tongues. Not only was I able to learn how to appreciate our differences, but I learned to love them as well.

A love of learning to last a lifetime 

As if entering high school wasn’t hard enough, I challenged myself to participate in the magnet school’s early college model, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

During my sophomore year of high school, I was introduced to a class called English 099. The course was designed to follow a real college classroom model, and scholars were taught the skills necessary to begin their journeys into higher education.

Through the dual-enrollment program, my transition to becoming a Goodwin University student was nothing short of seamless. CTRA prepared its scholars in small classrooms with their peers before enrolling them into classes with other college students. With initial courses filled with familiar faces, CTRA scholars were even more eager to learn from Goodwin University educators.

During the two years I spent as an early college model scholar, I was incredibly fortunate to take two of my favorite courses to date. My English 102 and Creative Writing classes allowed me to flourish academically.

Through Goodwin’s Universal Design for Learning framework, my professors gave me the creative freedom to learn and explore my interests. My education was fueled by the topics and methods of presentation that I enjoyed. Whether I felt my words were better written in a poem or spoken out loud, I had the opportunity to express the knowledge I acquired through my own medium.

My professors encouraged me to channel my inner ingenuity in a way that made me motivated to educate myself. As a result of the imaginative teaching structure, I graduated high school with 36 college credits earned through a genuine desire for learning. Those credits pushed me far enough ahead to have a year’s worth of college already accomplished before even finishing high school — ultimately allowing me to complete my Business Administration degree in just three years.

A community always close by 

The days leading up to my high school graduation were bittersweet.

Although it was difficult to part with the classmates and educators I formed authentic bonds with, I felt prepared to graduate and venture out into the real world.

Once I received my diploma, I shook hands with my educators and began my post-graduation journey. However, what happened after I graduated high school came as a complete surprise.

After I left the same double doors I once enthusiastically entered for the last time, I thought that my days within the CTRA community were long gone, but that wasn’t the case.

Unexpected was the immense amount of support I felt from educators, guidance counselors, and CTRA administration that I continued to feel post-graduation. I received emails and texts from faculty and staff checking in on my progress, and I even met with my guidance counselor to catch up and celebrate our successes.

The CTRA community is not one that you leave by graduating; it is one that you will continue to feel love and support from for a lifetime, and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

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