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SUBMITTED PHOTO Twenty-two students participated in The University of Scranton’s University of Success summer institute. From left: Margaret Loughney, University of Success program director; Elias Adame; Andrea Mantione, director of the Leahy Community Health and Family Center; and Dr. Maria Vital, operations manager at the Leahy Community Health and Family Center.

Elias Adame is still a few years away from committing to a college.

But, the University of Scranton might be an early frontrunner, thanks to the formative experience the Old Forge teen had there this summer.

Elias, a freshman at Old Forge Junior-Senior High School, was among 22 area students selected to participate in the U of S’s University of Success Summer Institute.

Back in July, Elias, 15, and his cohorts spent two weeks living in the dorms at the University as part of the start of their four-year involvement in University of Success, which is designed to give students the tools they’ll need to gain entry into the college of their choice.

Students begin the program after completing eighth grade and continue throughout their high school careers. Along the way, they get to engage in enrichment courses in study skills, SAT prep, public speaking, math, science, art and cultural activities. There are also seminars on financial aid and wellness.

Offered free of charge to participants, University of Success is funded almost entirely by corporate and foundation grants from AT&T, Charles A. Frueauff Foundation, Dime Bank, Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank, Kuehner Family Foundation, MetLife Foundation and Overlook Estate Foundation, among other entities.

Elias had to write an essay and be interviewed prior to being accepted into the program.

“It was very exciting for me. I thought it would be a really good opportunity for me,” said Elias, the son of Jennifer Adame and stepson of Marco Arrue. (He has two younger brothers, Liam Arrue, 2, and Leland Arrue, 5 months.)

The summer institute was great fun from the start, Elias said, noting he quickly made friends with the other kids at the opening meet-and-greet dinner.

“I ended up being friends with everyone there,” he said. “And the counselors were so nice and fun.”

During the institute, the students participated in interactive classes where they learned how physics is applied to harness wind energy.

“We were put in groups, and we had to do a presentation at the end of the program on how to conserve energy and make our homes eco-friendly. Our group came in first place,” Elias said. “It was a lot of fun, and we were learning along the way.”

The students also visited the University’s Loyola Science Center for a lesson that involved live turtles, tortoises and a snake. And, they got to venture off campus several times, with field trips to Pocono Environmental Education Center, Dorney Park and the Franklin Institute.

In addition, they spent an afternoon volunteering at St. Francis of Assisi Soup Kitchen, which spoke to Elias’ charitable spirit.

“I would like to do more volunteering,” he said. “It makes me feel good inside helping people.”

Jennifer Adame said it was hard having her son away for two weeks, but she was thrilled for him to have such a great opportunity.

“I was so excited for him,” she said. “It’s important to me that he’s an outgoing, social person. And when I see him put his mind toward things, I’m a very proud parent. I’m excited about what’s to come for him.”

Following the summer institute, the students will return to the University’s campus one Saturday every month throughout their four years in high school.

Elias will be fitting the program into a busy schedule that includes school and running for the Old Forge cross country team. A fan of math and computers, he’s leaning toward pursuing a career in accounting.

College is especially important to Elias, especially because he’ll be the first person in his family with the opportunity to go.

He’s got a lot of time and a lot options until then, but the U of S has already made a huge impression on him.

“If I had a choice now,” he said, “I probably would pick the University of Scranton.”