At orientation

Incoming River Valley Community College student Kayla LaFord of Keene speaks with a staff member at an orientation event at Keene State in 2019.

Most New Hampshire high school commencements are still a few weeks away, but members of the Class of 2021 are already getting a graduation gift from two philanthropic organizations: a free community college course.

The N.H. Charitable Foundation and The Foundation for New Hampshire Community Colleges announced Wednesday that they will fund one course at any of the state’s seven community colleges in the fall for seniors graduating this spring. The goal of this gift, according to a news release from the two groups, is to give students a head start on their college education and careers.

“Today’s announcement is a big step to help New Hampshire high school students get a foot in the door and discover new and exciting career pathways,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in the release.

This is especially important for the Class of 2021, for whom the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected their final two years of high school, N.H. Charitable Foundation Director of Education and Career Initiatives Michael Turmelle said.

“They have been separated from all of the usual in-school experiences and services that graduating seniors can usually count on,” he said in the release. “We wanted to create an easy way for students to take this important step toward their future success.”

Students graduating from any Granite State high school can take a three-credit course of their choice, including courses that are part of certificate programs, at any school within the state’s community college system, according to the release.

No standardized tests are required, and the colleges will work with students to help them choose a class, which can be online, hybrid or in-person. To enroll, eligible students should contact the admissions office at their local community college, according to the release.

“I am really excited for our incoming students, and they are very deserving of this gift,” Alfred Williams, president of River Valley Community College, which has campuses in Keene, Claremont and Lebanon, said in the release. “I know that we change lives when our students graduate. It is exciting that we can set the class of 2021 on a path to college and careers right here in their local New Hampshire communities.”

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.