Summer Scholars

Drury Scholars program is in its sixth year of connecting to the community

In the spring of 2008, three Drury professors hatched an idea to try to build bridges between different racial and ethnic groups, support education and do it all on a shoestring budget. Just a few months later, 15 African-American, middle school-aged young men spent a week on the Drury campus learning about literature and chemistry, attended a Springfield Cardinals games and realized the potential for their futures. Summer Scholars was born.

Since that time, Scholars has expanded to serve more than 50 Springfield Public Schools students, includes girls and provides year-round programming.

“The Drury Scholars program is consummate with the vision of higher education and Drury’s vision. I never doubted that we’d be doing this forever,” said Dr. Peter Meidlinger, a Drury English Professor and a Scholars founder.

Drury Theatre Professor works with Drury Scholars in the summer of 2012

Now entering its sixth year, the Scholars curriculum for this summer, which begins today, focuses on a theme of “Are you ready?” As in, are you ready to apply to college and take the ACT? All of the students heading into their junior and senior years of high school will finish their week at Drury with a practice ACT.

“College readiness is more than intellectual and academic,” said Dr. Bruce Callen, another Scholars founder a physics professor at Drury. “There also needs to be a familiarity with the college environment and a comfort with finding and applying to college.”

Last year, Drury Scholars hired Francine Pratt to be the Program Coordinator. In the past, Drury professors and students had some year-round contact with the Scholars and that has increased with a focus on college readiness. During the last academic year, Pratt took some of the Scholars to visit colleges around the state and region, including: UMKC, St. Louis University and Southeast Missouri State.

Pratt also took students to Infinite Scholars in Kansas City and St. Louis, which is a clearinghouse of colleges where, in just a few hours, students can apply to and get accepted to dozens of college and universities. However, to go on the trip, the students had to meet several requirements, “Students had to build a resume, get three letters of recommendation, write a college essay, and obtain an unofficial copy of transcripts. They had to earn the right to go on the trips, but when they got in front of the college representatives, they were ready,” Pratt said.

This fall, three Scholars alumni will be enrolled at Drury, but pushing Drury or college has never been the goal. For the Scholars founders, the goal has been to make the students aware of their potential and opportunities.

“One of the guys from the original class was the first person in his family to graduate from high school,” Callen said. “All along, we just wanted to show these kids that there were people in the community who cared about their success and make them realize that they have partners in the community who are committed to having a healthy, sustainable and viable community where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.”


Story by Mark Miller, associate director of marketing and communications at Drury University.

Sixth class of Drury Scholars comes to campus on July 8

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 3, 2013 — In the summer of 2008, 15 African-American, middle school-aged young men from Springfield Public Schools came to Drury for a week of academic enrichment, field trips and physical education classes. Summer Scholars was born. Now entering its sixth summer, the Drury Scholars has since expanded to include females, provides year-round activities, has a dedicated program coordinator, and the curriculum is more focused on preparing the students for college.

“What we wanted was to increase the awareness and capability for the young people in the program. So, if college was the right choice they’d be in the right place to make that decision,” said Dr. Bruce Callen, one of the founders of Scholars. “We also wanted them to know that there were people in the community who cared about their success.”

More than 50 African-American young men and women will arrive on Drury’s campus on July 8 for a week of education and fun. The theme this year is “Are you ready?” As in, “Are you ready to take the ACT and apply for college?” All of the students entering their junior or senior years of high school will finish the week by taking a practice ACT test.

Drury Theatre Professor Bob Westenberg works with Scholars in 2012

During the school year, students in the Scholars program take part in a variety of activities from a book club to getting help from Drury faculty writing their college essays. Scholars Program Coordinator Francine Pratt has also taken several high school students in the program on field trips to college campuses around Missouri, including: UMKC, SEMO, Lindenwood University and St. Louis University. She also took students to Infinite Scholars in St. Louis and Kansas City, a one-day conference where students can apply to and get accepted to multiple colleges in just a few hours.

“All of our team learned the importance of business casual attire, proper etiquette, how to greet people and good interpersonal skills before we attended Infinite Scholars,” Pratt said. “It was powerful watching how well they took to that experience and what they got out of it. Seven of our seniors got accepted at multiple colleges from the Infinite Scholars experience.”

The focus for the summer session is on high school-aged students, but middle school students spent a day on-campus in May that mirrors what the older students will do during their residential experience.

The only cost to the Scholars is a $25 fee, which is waived for students who complete community service.

Media Contact: Francine Pratt, Drury Scholars Program Coordinator, Mobile: (916) 541-1675, Email: fpratt@drury.ed


Former NAACP president to lead Drury’s Scholars

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 11, 2012 — Francine Pratt, the former president of the Springfield Missouri chapter of the NAACP, has joined Drury University as the program coordinator for the Scholars program. Formerly called Summer Scholars, the Scholars program began in 2008 as an enrichment program for young Springfield African-American middle school males. It has since expanded to include young females, offering year-round activities and it has tripled in size.

Francine Pratt

For the past two years, Pratt has served as the executive director of Isabel’s House, the crisis nursery of the Ozarks. Pratt says that the Scholars position combines two of her passions: children and helping young African-Americans realize their potential. “I understand the Springfield Public Schools’ achievement gap between some African-American students and Caucasian students and I want to help close that gap,” Pratt said. “Being able to work one-on-one with students and the ability to give them opportunities that they may not even know exist, that excites me.” As president of the NAACP, Pratt’s executive committee organized mentoring programs and bus tours for African-American high school students to Missouri’s Historically Black Colleges: Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

Pratt moved to Springfield in 2007 and worked for the Missouri Department of Social Services and worked in the private industry for contracted social services. Prior to that, she worked in California in a variety of positions with the State of California, including the Department of Social Services and the Department of Managed Health Care.

Drury faculty founded Summer Scholars as a way to connect with young African-Americans in the neighborhood near the Drury campus through academic and cultural classes and outings. The program directors, Mark Wood, Bruce Callen, Peter Meidlinger, and Charlyn Ingwerson, all live in the midtown community and teach at the university. Meidlinger articulates the vision of all involved in the program: “At some distant point in the future, when the history of race relations in Springfield is told, after mentioning the lynchings and the segregated schools, historians will have to say, ‘Somewhere in 2008, four Drury professors and members of the black community held hands in a big circle that encompassed the schools, the neighborhood, families, and kids — a circle that didn’t leave anyone out.’”

This year, the Summer Scholars will be on the Drury campus beginning July 30.

Media Contact: Dr. Bruce Callen, Associate Dean of the College, Office: (417) 873-7546, Mobile: (417) 849-6809, E-mail:


Drury scholars program earns a large grant from the state

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., April 16, 2012 — In 2008 three Drury professors had an idea to offer a summer college enrichment program to African-American boys in the Drury neighborhood. That program for seventh and eighth graders began with about 15 boys; now, five years later, it annually serves about 50 African-American boys and girls. This week, the Missouri Department of Higher Education recognized the success of that program with a College Access Challenge Grant for $84,511.

“Our goal has always been to recruit these students to college. Whatever college that might be,” said 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.”

The program, begun by professors Dr. Callen, Dr. Peter Meidlinger and Dr. Mark Wood, expanded to include girls in 2009 when they brought on Drury English Instructor Charlyn Ingwerson. Many in that first group of middle school students have come back to the Scholars program every summer. This year, Drury will have its first Scholars alumna enroll at Drury.

“There is an achievement gap for African-American students compared to other ethnic groups in Springfield,” Ingwerson said. “The Scholars program not only gives them a week of intense college immersion in the summer; but, through tutoring and book clubs during the year, we have helped several students improve their grades and their ability to imagine a future that includes college.”

The grant will pay for food, salaries for Drury student workers who serve as mentors to the Scholars, stipends for guest speakers, fees for cultural trips, and educational supplies including books.

This summer, the Scholars will be on campus the first week in August.

According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education, “College Access Challenge Grants were created by Congress in 2007 to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. This year the Missouri Department of Higher Education awarded $1.5 million in federal funds to 17 groups to reach underserved students.”


Drury’s Summer Scholars program begins its fourth year

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.