July 8, 2013
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.
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.