MA Early College Community of Practice

in partnership with

Westfield State University

in partnership with Holyoke High School,
High School of Commerce, Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy

The Westfield Promise is an early college program offered through Westfield State in partnership with Westfield High School, Westfield Technical Academy, Holyoke High School, and the High School of Commerce, Springfield.

The program enables students to earn up to 12 college credits by graduation, greatly increasing the likelihood that students will go on to earn a college degree.

A creatively successful aspect of The Westfield Promise is the stretch year, modeled after the original partnership between Northern Essex Community College and Amesbury High School. During their junior year, students take one or two ‘stretch courses’ (college courses that take place over a full school year rather than a single semester). The courses – English Composition and History – are co-taught by a WSU professor and a high school faculty member. Courses are taught during the school day at the high school. Stretch courses allow for more time with college material and instructors, giving students the ability to ease into the rigors of college coursework. Students visit the Westfield State campus several times over the course of the year and have access to campus resources.

In the video to the right, Ryan Meersman, Assistant Director of Early College Access Programs at Westfield State University shares how they build relationships, contributing to the success of students in the program.

WSU and their partner schools make dreams of a college education come true!

In their senior year, students begin taking courses on campus at Westfield State, connecting with the campus community and student resources. Enrolled students receive expert peer and professional advising to select courses that will meet both their high school graduation criteria and Westfield State’s transferable common core of courses. The promise that partner schools and Westfield State University makes to students:  Upon successful completion of the program, the student will be given preferred admission to Westfield State University. Should the student choose to attend college elsewhere, many of the credits earned with Westfield State University are transferable. 

In addition to offering access to college coursework and credit hours toward a degree, the goal of The Westfield Promise is to provide an experience that instills a confidence in students so they go on to earn the degree they may once have thought out of reach.  

Key to the success of The Westfield Promise is careful planning and preparation. Strong consideration is given to the co-teachers as that partnership has a tremendous impact on student achievement. Also key is developing and maintaining open lines of communication between all constituents. The overnight orientation (described in the video above) is another example of the thoughtful, proactive plan to foster relationships. As a result of the orientation, students gain reassurance that they belong in their cohort and the program. They also develop the confidence to self-advocate, further ensuring their likelihood of success.

Several of the above photos were taken at one of the overnight orientations showing students playing ice-breaker games with student orientation leaders. This is when relationships important to fostering the college-going mindset are built. A couple of the images are from a photoshoot with the first class of students who graduated in 2019.
(Click photo to enlarge.)

Content for this Spotlight page was provided by Ryan Meersman, Assistant Director of Early College Access Programs, at Westfield State University