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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2018:04:13 23:35:14

Kerilyn Pon (left) and Margaret Loughney, University of Success program director.

In a few weeks, thousands of students across Northeast Pennsylvania will enter a college classroom for the first time. It’s an exciting yet anxious period for any young person. Kerilyn Pon, though, will likely be a bit more at ease than some of her cohorts.

That’s because the 18-year-old Taylor resident was among 19 high school students who recently completed the University of Scranton’s University of Success program, a multi-year, pre-college program designed to help high school students develop the skills they’ll need to successfully transition to college.

All 19 students have been admitted to post-secondary schools or chose to enlist in the military. Kerilyn decided to enroll at the U of S, thanks to the program.

“I love the U. That’s where I want to be,” said Kerilyn, one of Debra and Peter Pon’s five children.

In June, Kerilyn graduated from Riverside Junior-Senior High School, where she was sixth in her class. Before leaving, though, she gave a PowerPoint presentation to students, teachers and administrators on the benefits of the program.

“I was the first student at Riverside to do it. It’s such a great program, but nobody really knows about it,” she said. “I told my principal and vice principal, ‘I have to do a presentation on this thing. We have to get all the eighth-grade students together and tell them about it.’”

Kerilyn and her fellow University of Success students entered the program at the end of eighth grade and continued with it throughout their high school years.

The program is free of charge and is funded nearly entirely by corporate and foundation grants. They include: AT&T, Charles A. Frueauff Foundation, Dime Bank, Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank, Kuehner Family Foundation, MetLife Foundation, Overlook Estate Foundation, Peoples Security Bank and Trust, Prudential Foundation, Scranton Area Community Foundation, Waste Management, Weis Markets and Wells Fargo.

Kerilyn and her fellow group members were initiated into the program with a two-week stay on the University’s campus the summer before their freshman year of high school.

“It was great. We stayed in the dorms,” Kerilyn said. “We learned all about renewable energy. My group had solar energy. We went to see solar panels, and to other places to look at other forms of renewable energy. We went to Dorney Park, the Franklin Institute and an environmental place in the Poconos. I got to do a lot of things I probably never would have had the chance to do.”

Then, during high school, she spent one Saturday a month at the University taking enrichment courses in various subjects, among them study skills, SAT prep, public speaking, math, science, art and cultural activities. In addition, the students took part in financial aid and wellness seminars.

“Just a bunch of different things to try and help you for college. And by being exposed to different things, you find out what you want to do in college,” said Kerilyn, who plans to major in early childhood education.

She made a lot of friends through the program, and received a few awesome perks, like a free laptop computer.

Overall, Kerilyn couldn’t be happier with her decision to take part in University of Success. And she’s hoping to serve as a trailblazer for other Riverside students looking to get a leg up on the college experience.

“I feel like it’s going to make freshman year so much easier for me,” she said. “It’s a great program, and I hope more kids get involved with it.”

Meet Kerilyn Pon Age: 18

Residence: Taylor

Family: ` Debra and Peter Pon; siblings, Kristian, 16, Lillie, 12, Cayden, 8, and Maya, 6.

Education: A 2018 graduate of Riverside Junior-Senior High School, Kerilyn will begin her freshman year at the University of Scranton this fall.