July 19, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 19, 2011 —In the summer of 2008, three Drury University professors welcomed a group of 15 African-American high school students to campus for the first session of Summer Scholars. Four years later, Drury University’s Summer Scholars program for African-American teenagers has more than tripled, includes female students and several of the original scholars are just a year away from entering college.
Beginning Sunday, July 24, Drury will welcome around two-dozen students heading into the ninth and tenth grades at Central High School. Those students will remain until Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, July 27, another group of students heading into their junior and senior years at Central will come to campus and remain until Saturday, July 30. The students will attend classes in language arts, photography, science and critical thinking; listen to guest speakers; and attend local cultural events.
“Our goal has always been to recruit these students to college. Whatever college that might be,” says Dr. Bruce Callen, associate dean of the college and one of the founding members of the Summer Scholars. “We want to provide them with an introduction to a lot of the experiences college can provide. We’ve had a strong concentration in reading, mathematics and writing, but we’ve also introduced them to philosophy, architecture, theatre and art.”
Drs. Callen, Peter Meidlinger and Mark Wood founded the Summer Scholars program. They were joined by Drury English instructor Charlyn Ingwerson in 2009 when female students were added to the program.
According to a report produced by Springfield Public Schools, African-American students made up about 7.5 percent of high school students in the Springfield district in 2009-2010, and accounted for just 4 percent of the students in the district that took the ACT that school year. By contrast, Caucasian students made up 83 percent of the SPS students who took the ACT, and represent 86 percent of students in Springfield Public Schools. Additionally, Caucasian students in Springfield scored five points higher on the ACT in 2009-2010 than their African-American counterparts.
“We were concerned about the loss of potential reflected in statistics that show capable African-American students in Springfield not attending college or even applying. The reasons for starting and sustaining the Summer Scholars program is to nurture these students’ potential, help them vision a future where their educations go beyond high school, and to close that achievement gap.” says Ingwerson.
Summer Scholars has expanded beyond the summertime immersion. During the school year, several Drury faculty members and students engage with African-American students at Pipkin Middle School in a book club. Beginning in the spring of 2011, Drury faculty and students began a mentoring program for African-American students at Central High School. “I’ve learned a lot about how families work,” says Meidlinger, a Drury English professor. “Many of the students in mentoring come from single parent families where the parent has a night job. They aren’t able to know what homework their child has or what’s going on in the classroom. With mentoring, we check on grades and keep them on track. Having an extra adult in the mix, it makes a difference.”
Students interested in the program are asked to fill out an application and write two short essays. All students that applied this year were accepted. The only cost to the student is a $25 fee.
A majority of the funding for the program comes internally from Drury University. Springfield Public Schools pays for the resident advisers’ salaries, and a grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will help feed the teens during their stay at Drury. Drury receives additional financial support from several private donations.