NORWALK — In her first semester at Norwalk Community College, Blythe Serrano enjoyed her classes, but she was looking for something more.

The “community” the name promised.

So when one of her professors mentioned the resurrection of the Honors Program, she was immediately interested.

“While I’d enjoyed my courses, I felt like there wasn’t that much of a community within them,” Serrano said. “I wanted to be part of a study group and more discussion based.”

Serrano is one of 12 students in the first cohort of the new Honors Program at NCC, and the it is currently accepting applications for the spring semester. Both new and current students may apply. The application deadline is Dec. 16.

Honors Program coordinator and science instructor Jonathan McMenamin-Balano said it’s a misconception that community colleges only attract students who aren’t ready for a four-year school.

“I went to a community college — Cape Cod Community College — the people who were in my class, they were much smarter than I was,” McMenamin-Balano said. “These were fishermen who could no longer go out to sea, and they didn’t realize how smart they were … it’s almost disappointing when you do realize the vast misconception of what a community college is doing.”

More Information

For more information about applying to the program, contact Honors Program Coordinator Jonathan McMenamin-Balano at (203) 857-7351 or jmcmenamin-balano@norwalk.edu

It’s not the first time a program for exceptional students has existed at NCC. McMenamin-Balano said the Honors Program has been dormant for about 15 years — since the college needed to redirect resources to other programs.

Now resurrected, the program offers small classes and intellectual rigor for students looking for an additional challenge. Honors Program students receive individualized advising by Honors faculty, who guide them to take advantage of opportunities and resources at NCC and prepare them for their next educational or professional goal.

Specialized research projects are designed into the coursework to develop deep understanding of academic and career interests, and identify possible capstone or independent research projects.

Karla Chum, a student in the program and a Norwalk High School graduate, said she took honors courses in high school, but was surprised at how challenging the courses in the honors program were.

“Honestly there’s certain points where they’re very challenging and they make me feel slow, but when you get it and actually get what we’re learning it gives you a feeling of success because you overcame a challenge,” Chum said. “I didn’t think it was going to be this kind of difficult because i took honors classes in high school but they were nothing like the honors program.”

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt