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When New Rochelle High School special education teacher Pamela Hallman-Johnson saw a need to walk some seniors through the college-application process, she took action.

That started a year-long journey in which students learned how to set up, access, and utilize College Board information, Common App college-application software, and student-aid accounts. Students learned how to write a college essay, request information, request letters of recommendation, complete a financial-aid application, an Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation application, and how to maximize email.

To ease students’ anxiety about entering college as a student with a disability, Hallman-Johnson arranged testimonials from college students and graduates who were successful. She set up an informational session led by her daughter, Chelsea Johnson, a Manhattanville College graduate who had accessed Manhattanville’s accessibility services; Shaina Campbell, who used accessibility services at Iona College as an undergraduate and at Queens College as a graduate student; and Monica Jackson, Accessibility Services Director at Rockland Community College. In addition, Hallman-Johnson’s husband, Judge Reginald J. Johnson of the Peekskill City Court and an Adjunct Professor at Westchester Community College, gave words of encouragement and inspiration to graduating seniors.

All efforts culminated with The College Acceptance and Post-Secondary Activity Commitment Celebration at New Rochelle High School for these special seniors, and Superintendent Jonathan Raymond and Principal Dr. Dagoberto Artiles stopped by to offer their congratulations. “Educating students for me is more than a career, it is a ministry,” Hallman-Johnson said. “As such, it is my desire to educate and speak life and hope into every student I come in contact with.”

Students said they clearly benefitted from in-depth efforts.

“The college process this year was an excellent experience because it taught me responsibility as a young adult to take charge of my life,” said student Jesus Barrera. “When I did this process, it changed my mind from a high school student to an adult. I grew exponentially during this time from how I entered my senior year in September, thinking it’s going to be an easy year. But now it’s completely different from so much time passing, and I am doing big things for myself.”

Student Lance Milton said, “The college process helped me communicate with my teachers, ask them for letters of recommendation, special-education services, and how to send emails. I learned how to take responsibility for managing my time and my transition from high school to college.”

Learn more about the students’ successes here.