For most international students, simply seeing the nation’s capital, the site of the bloodiest battle in American history and other historic locations would constitute as overwhelming experiences. But for Menglong Cai, a junior finance major from China, it was not enough just to be a tourist.

Cai is one of seven Gannon students participating in Gannon’s GO College (Gaining Options for College Collaborative) program. Previously known as Gannon University Mentoring Services (GUMS), GO College is a multi-dimensional educational program aimed at academic enrichment, college exposure and service-learning at Strong Vincent, Central Tech, and East high schools.

“Years ago, for an inner-city school, going to college was the exception, whereas we operate from the standpoint that college is the expectation,” program director Michael Cifelli ’04M said.

Menglong is a junior finance major from China.

In addition to academic mentoring, GO College accompanies students on several trips each year, exposing them to historic sites and educational opportunities. On May 8-10, the College staff went with recent Strong Vincent graduates to Washington, D.C., before joining a group of rising seniors to Pittsburgh and Gettysburg June 12-14.

“We were there to share our college experience and our knowledge,” Cai said, noting that while in Washington, they visited the White House, Capitol Hill and several museums.

The trip to Gettysburg served as a different kind of lesson for the students, where they visited the battle site Little Round Top, where the school’s namesake, Col. Strong Vincent, led Union forces to victory over the Confederacy in the Battle of Gettysburg. “Seeing the battlefields and hearing the stories in person really brings to life what they study in class,” Cai said.

A unique and exceptional story in the GO College circle, Cai knew little English upon arriving in Erie, but has since immersed himself in the Gannon and Erie communities through the program. Though he had previously never been to an American high school, Cai now shares in mutual experiences that extend beyond cultural boundaries.

“I’m good at math, and I was able to help a lot of them with that. I’ve formed a lot of friendships and have shared a lot of cultural experiences,” he said.

This article by Joe Cuneo appeared in Gannon Magazine, Summer 2012