FRAMINGHAM — When he enters college, Derrick Vervil can lean on a "support system" he has created with the help of a local early college program.

Since he was in eighth grade, the Framingham High School sophomore has participated in the MetroWest Scholars Early Start program — a team effort between Framingham State University and MassBay Community College. Students in Milford or Framingham public schools are exposed to in-demand professional fields, such as business, education and criminology, as they take college-level courses for free.

Vervil, who is tentatively interested in a career as an architect, has completed some related college-level courses while still in high school. He said it's given him a valuable glimpse of college.

"I'll know what to expect when I get there," said Vervil. 

On Tuesday, US Rep. Katherine Clark visited Framingham State to celebrate the program's expansion to Waltham thanks to a $600,000 investment. The program will be able to serve 60 new eighth-graders per year, ultimately serving 300 students annually

It will be delivered in partnership with Waltham's middle and high school, MetroWest College Planning Collaborative (CPC) and dual enrollment courses from FSU and MassBay.

"These kids are our future and it's been proven time and time again that with access to quality affordable higher education, the doors in their lives open to long-term success," said Clark, a Democrat who is assistant speaker of the House.

Waltham Superintendent of Schools Brian Reagan said the district wanted to make sure it was "providing as many pathways as possible for kids."

"I look forward to seeing what comes in the years ahead as not just dozens but hundreds of kids" enter the program, said Reagan, a former Hudson High School principal. 

Framingham State was the first of three stops in the city for Clark.

She next toured the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center on Waverly Street to spotlight the $1 million she secured for its interpreter services program.

In a panel, four medical interpreters spoke about the importance of their jobs.

Gada Hassan, who interprets Arabic at the Kennedy's Worcester location, said she recently helped a pregnant Middle Eastern woman who could not read or write and was hard of hearing.

While her job is mainly to interpret between those seeking care and providers, Hassan said she accompanies patients from the moment they enter the center.

"They want me to be a connection between them and the provider. With all my heart and all my love, I will do that," said Hassan.

Lastly, Clark went to the Chris Walsh Aqueduct Trail Connectivity Project to discuss the $220,000 in federal funding she secured the complete the design development and permitting process. Once constructed, the project will provide thousands of residents in downtown with direct access to the recreational corridor, according to a press release.

Equity was the underlying message of her visits, said Clark, who has represented Massachusetts's 5th Congressional District since 2013.

"It's about making sure we're opening educational opportunities to our scholars with the Early Start program to supporting interpretive services so that communities can get the help and connection that they need to stay healthy and secure," said Clark, while in the hallway of the Kennedy Health Center, "to our Chris Walsh trail, which is really about environmental justice and opening up green space to everybody to enjoy."

Locally, Clark's district includes Ashland, Holliston, Framingham, Natick, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland and Weston.


Original story HERE.