As a result, the First Niagara Foundation stepped in to provide a partnership grant of $100,000 to the Norwalk Education Foundation and Norwalk Community College Foundation to support NECA, with the funding directed to enable students to access their first college class as ninth-graders.
With funding in hand, Duffy knew that not just any professor could teach this class of 14-year-olds. He assigned one of his full-time faculty to teach, who he knew could bridge the high school-college divide. According to Duffy, “Much of the greatness of this experience is going to come from our instructor, who really teaches well. At the college level you need to demonstrate expertise in the field.” Pointing out that college professors, unlike high school teachers, do not need a teaching certification, Duffy continues, “We rely on the interview process. There is no guarantee that you will find a good or great teacher. You have to find that rare instructor who has both – the expertise and the teaching ability.”
While funding was critical to enabling college to be introduced so early, the course would not have been possible without significant support and buy-in, particularly from NCC leadership. “I know that early access to college classes can be a powerful motivator for NECA students,” say Duffy. “I also know that this is a class in which students can taste early success, given the right professor and high school supports. I want to embrace the possibilities and enable them as much as possible.”