A college representative and students of the Community Charter School of Cambridge meet Wednesday at the Kendall Square school's inaugural college fair. (Photo: Justin T. Martin)

More than two dozen colleges and universities from across the country sent representatives to the Community Charter School of Cambridge on Wednesday for the school’s inaugural college fair.

Tenth-,  11th- and 12th-grade students from the tuition-free, college preparatory school met with admissions counselors and alumni representatives from schools as close as the University of Massachusetts and as far away as Dartmouth College, Colgate University, Oberlin College and Bryn Mawr College.

“I think it is pretty neat because not a lot of high schools I know of do this,” said Daniel Howell, a member of the Class of ’12. “I’m able to learn about a lot of different colleges, some I didn’t even know about.”

For school officials, the ability to attract major college programs to their Kendall Square campus means the school is gaining a reputation for producing graduates who succeed at the collegiate level. The school is in its sixth year of existence. It has 350 students, up from 270 last year.

“From what I’ve heard, this school is home to phenomenal students with a clear goal for what they want to do, and where they want to go,” said Carrie Holmes, an admissions counselor from Keene State College in New Hampshire. “I’ve met some terrific students, and its clear CCSC has a great program.”

The purpose of the college fair is to provide students an opportunity to explore their options and to connect with admissions representatives. Having so many colleges and universities on the CCSC campus also has a positive impact on the school’s staff.

“For one, it is nice to see colleges paying attention to our students and to our school,” said Caleb Hurst-Hiller, head of the Upper School housing the  sophomore, junior and senior classes. “It also means our vision of what we want to do as a faculty, the curriculum we are developing and the values we’re trying to instill, is producing the type of student that these colleges want. Lastly, it is just really wonderful to see some of these students, kids we’ve known for a number of years, begin to take those first steps toward the next level, seeing them start to own the process that leads to successful post-secondary education.”

Good for students and colleges

Credited with creating the fair is the school’s college counselor, Nadira Hairston. “It is important for  students to understand college entrance requirements and to be exposed to information about campus life and college culture. When an admissions officer has a memorable conversation with a student and can connect that face with an application, it can make huge difference in the admissions process. The college fair was obviously a big success for both our students and for the college admissions people.”

Face-to-face time with the students, being able to answer questions in person and learning about the school are all reasons Kathryn Dromey, assistant director of admissions at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, gave for coming to the fair.

“Plus it is important for students to know what we have to offer,” Dromey said.

Katherine Pezzella, an alumni admission representative from Colgate, agreed, saying visiting the school doesn’t just put students in front of Colgate, but puts Colgate in front of the students. “I tell them to give us a shot and hear what we have to offer. In addition to the academic rigor, I tell them there is nothing like the Colgate community, the friends you make and the connections that will help you throughout your career.”

For students Naizsaya Bell and Sade Hopkins, members of the Class of ’11, meeting with college counselors made college seem more “real.”

“We know what we need to do [to get into college] now, and it is good to meet the people from the colleges,” Bell said. “I was actually looking at Oberlin. I like the school. I play the violin, and I was able to learn about their music program.”

Connecticut College Admissions Director Deborah J. Wright said she made the trip from New London, Conn., to see for herself the type of students and the quality of the curriculum found at CCSC. “Meeting the kids really is the highlight of my job,” she said. “It’s also really important to help students, some of whom, like I was, might be the first in their family to go to college.”

Stephanie Wujcik, an admissions counselor from Bryn Mawr, said she tries to make sure students know about the financial support available to them through Bryn Mawr grants, loans and work study. “We are committed to making sure students understand the supports available to them to help them succeed.”

Colleges in attendance included: American International College, Becker College, Bryant University, Bryn Mawr College, Colgate University, Dartmouth College,, Connecticut College, Emerson College, Emmanuel College, Fairfield University, George Washington University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Grinnell College, College of the Holy Cross, Lasell College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Oberlin College, Providence College, Regis  College, Salve Regina University, Stonehill College, University of Massachusetts-Boston, University of Massachusetts- Amherst, Union College, Keene State College, Wesleyan University, Wheaton College and Wheelock College.

Justin T. Martin is chief communications officer for the Community Charter School of Cambridge. He can be reached at [email protected].