A college classroom scene.
Launched this year, College Rise is one of a number of college-readiness programs Adelphi offers students from Long Island high schools that see few graduates advance into higher education.

The College Rise program is a new mentoring initiative helping local high school students from underrepresented communities prepare for college. Created by Senior Adjunct Professor Joseph Celentano, MBA ’04, it was inspired by his own experience as one of the first in his family to attend college.

“There are kids in high schools today who are not getting the support they need to pursue higher education and who know very little about college—as little as I did when I was in high school,” said Joseph Celentano, MBA ’04, senior adjunct professor of management at Adelphi. “They just need some information and direction, and—boom—they could be some of our best scholars.”

Celentano, who was one of the first in his family to attend college, decided to take action. He created the College Rise program, a new mentoring initiative that helps high school students from underrepresented communities prepare for college. Attracting dozens of Adelphi students and faculty members as volunteers, the program is subsidized by a private grant.

College Rise is only Celentano’s most recent effort to increase access to college education and promote diversity, both of which are central to Adelphi’s Momentum 2 strategic plan.

The chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Council at the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business since 2020, he notably teamed with associate professor of finance and economics David Machlis, PhD, to launch the Two Museums Program, designed to increase understanding between Black and Jewish students at Adelphi. His commitment to bringing about change won him a 2024 Diversity in Business Award from Long Island Business News.

Supporting the next generation of scholars

College Rise launched in February 2023 in partnership with Long Island’s Uniondale High School, where 15 to 20 students participated in a weekly mentorship program run by Adelphi volunteers certified in mentoring by New York state.

Danaid Sinani, a sophomore majoring in computer science, was one of the mentors whose own experience drew him to the program.

“I joined the College Rise program as a mentor primarily because of my challenges as a high school senior evaluating college options,” Sinani said. “Understanding the complexity and significance of this decision, I was inspired to assist students in navigating their choices, drawing on my own personal journey.”

“Our mentors would answer students’ questions about the college application process and college culture,’” Celentano said. “They’d also join in on their after-school programs, where students were learning about things like goal setting and mental health. We’d give the students encouragement and participate in any way we could.”

The high school students were also invited to take a 1-credit college business course, Financial Literacy for Life.

“Essentially, we helped them get started on their college career while they’re still in high school,” Celentano said. “We taught them about everything from opening bank accounts and borrowing money for college to leasing a car and saving for retirement.”

College Rise participants even spent a day of the five-week course touring the Adelphi campus and attending a few educational sessions with professors.

“The students were just awed by what they saw,” Celentano said. “When they saw the Performing Arts Center, the gymnasium and the pool, the labs—everything that a college campus has—they were just flabbergasted. Many of them don’t know that this world exists because they don’t have anyone in their life who is talking to them about it.”

After completing its first year in April 2024, College Rise has already made an impact on students’ lives.

“The first time I went to Adelphi, I heard Mr. Gupta talking about finance,” one student said, referring to Rakesh C. Gupta, associate professor of decision sciences and marketing. “I really liked the course and how everyone welcomed us at the University. I’m getting more knowledge and I would definitely recommend the program to any other student.”

Creating a national model for other universities

Going forward, Celentano hopes to promote College Rise nationwide at educational conferences, providing a model for other universities to mentor and recruit students from underrepresented populations. As for the coming year, he looks forward to continuing the program with Uniondale High School and expanding to partner with other schools in the Long Island area.

“We’ll bring new Adelphi faculty and students to these schools and, ideally, do this on an annual basis,” Celentano said. “We’re there to show students that they have a support system outside of their high school, and that it resides at Adelphi University.”


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