Friday, 30 December 2011 00:00
A poster of one word—imagine—hangs on the wall in the office of Farmingdale First. Imagine is what Frank Pomata, Director of Student Support Services, does every day while painting a friendly face on student campus life. There’s even a candy dish and family photos in his office.
Farmingdale First is a selective TRIO-SSS program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Eligible students who are ready and willing to participate in Farmingdale First include: non-traditional students, first generation students, lower income students or learning disabled individuals.
Pomata is always on campus volunteering at blood drives or welcoming folks at open house and serves as a committee member at volunteer fairs. Off campus, Pomata is a dedicated educator—both in the public and private sector—often speaking at forums like the Long Island College Student Personnel Association (LICSPA).
“Farmingdale First is a value-added element serving students’ needs from residence life to academics and even helps discuss issues at home if need be,” says Pomata.
Pomata heads up what he calls a navigation program that is often a go-between with various departments and services on campus (such as the student success or career development centers) that touches on careerism and youth development aimed to help students get the most out of their education.
Pomata is enthusiastic about student life. He often recommends important books such as: First in the Family: Your College Years, by Kathleen Cushman or Listening Is An Act of Love, by Dave Isay to engage students in conversation.
“We provide the support students need to greatly improve their chance for success. We help students stay in school, finish their degree at Farmingdale State College and help pave their future even afterward. Many of our students continue on to graduate studies,” says Pomata who earned a BA in Political Science from Long Island University, C.W. Post and an MA in Higher Education Administration from the University of Massachusetts.
Through Farmingdale First, Pomata says, “We connect the dots where students might not intuitively understand. If we don’t have the information at hand, we will literally walk a student across campus to academic advisement and put him or her in the office’s capable hands. ” Pomata is excited to be part of Farmingdale State College during its 100th anniversary celebration.
“Farmingdale seems to be on an incredible track upward. Working with admissions and other departments, I see Farmingdale First as a driver of that ascendancy. There is a positive energy here on campus that’s contagious. We’ve been the recipient of grants and donations. We’re erecting new buildings and designing programs meant to benefit students.”
So far, more than 100 students are enrolled in Farmingdale First. Those students are making strong, meaningful connections with faculty, staff, and other students early in their college careers. Those tend to have a higher rate of degree completion than those who do not. The staff understands how difficult it is to be the first person in one’s family to go to college, to struggle financially and to adapt to college life with disabilities.
Pomata says that students come with a variety of needs, concerns or could have language barriers or problems at home. “Our job is to get them from a nervous beginner to a successful, thriving student.”
Counseling—Academic and personal help preparing for graduate school, internships and undergraduate research opportunities. Help with financial aid applications.
Tutoring—Offering assistance and arrangement for tutorials.
First-Year Experience—Two-semester course provides guidance and field trips to cultural events and volunteerism.
Summer Orientation—Two-week residential summer program where career services faculty explain the realities of college life.
Pomata brings his vast experience from key roles in both the public and private sector for state government and non-profit work, he recently worked on a similar project for Dowling College for Wyandanch school district GEAR UP funded by the United States Department of Education.
Mostly, Pomata just gets it because he says, “I’ve been there. I was a first generation college student and I understand how challenging it can be at times. That’s why I’m passionate about helping students achieve their best even after they graduate.”
Students can apply online. To find Farmingdale First, click on Quick Links on www.farmingdale.edu. Referrals can come from faculty members, the financial aid department or even Title III counselors. After acceptance, a student communicates with staff every two weeks via in-person meetings, emails and phone calls. Stop by Frank’s office in 112 Laffin Hall to pick up the latest issue of the bi-monthly newsletter “First@Farmingdale” or just say hello.