July 20, 2018, BY Beth Kaszuba

Two students hold kayak paddles in a wooded setting.
Community college students Benjamin Martinez, left, and Caroline Benitz take part in a kayak trip as part of the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program, which helps outstanding students from partner institutions earn four-year degrees. Photo by Layla Alazawy

When Caroline Benitz was 21, she took the risk of moving from her native Brazil to the United States, where she served as an au pair and began to attend community college in Montgomery County, Pa., taking business courses and classes to improve her English.

This summer, Benitz seized a new opportunity by participating in the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program, which enables outstanding students from five partner schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland to attend a six-week summer session at Bucknell.

The 25 scholars live on campus, take classes and attend workshops to build the study and time-management skills they'll need to succeed at a four-year residential university. Students also bond during social activities, including a kayak trip and talent show. At the end of the program, they return to their home institutions, where, after completing their associate's degrees, they are eligible to apply to transfer to Bucknell. Each year, between 15 and 20 scholars are selected to receive full scholarships to complete their bachelor's degrees.

"It's very exciting to think that could happen," said Benitz, who has already been emboldened to switch her focus from business to psychology, her dream major. "Because I've worked, I could never just dedicate myself to school," she added. "This is a second chance for me. And Bucknell gives you all the resources you need to succeed. The professors are interested in getting to know you, and they make sure you understand the material."

Allentown, Pa., resident Mickey Arce '20 attended the summer session in 2017 and returned this year as a teaching assistant for a BCCSP class. He'll join the Bucknell community as a full-time student this fall.

"At first, I was skeptical," said Arce, who is majoring in political science and philosophy, with the goal of attending law school after Bucknell. "I thought, if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't real. But once I came here, I knew I needed to come back. I even sat in on the classes I didn't take, to get as much out of the experience as I could."

Benitz is also making the most of her time at Bucknell and is determined to earn a scholarship.

"If I'm given an opportunity like this, I make the most of it," she said. "I do my best, then try to go even farther."