Half of first Collegiate Scholars may be destined for ChicagoBy Julia Morse
The first group of high school students to participate in the Collegiate Scholars Program is preparing for college, and nearly half of them have applied to the University.
The 60 teens were among the first enrolled as Collegiate Scholars in 2003, when this University enrichment program for Chicago Public School students was established.
Twenty-eight of those 60 students have applied to the University. The eight students who applied early action have all been accepted.
“The exposure we’ve given them to the University, in terms of the arts, culture, incredible courses, has made it a very supportive environment for them if they choose to enroll here,” said Kim Ransom-Kazembe, Director of the Collegiate Scholars Program.
Collegiate Scholars is a free enrichment program for Chicago Public School students. The program begins in the summer between 9th and 10th grades and lasts through graduation.
Each year, about 600 high-school 9th graders apply to the program, and selecting the top 50 or 60 students for enrollment is a daunting task, explained Mecca Brooks, Associate Director of the Collegiate Scholars Program.
“Even if you were to take out any applicants with average grades, you’re still left with 500 kids,” Brooks said.
Ransom-Kazembe said that because most of the students who apply have excellent grades, what makes a difference in the selection process are extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations and how the students demonstrate their passions and creativity.
“It’s always an exceptional group of kids,” she said. “Each has something special. We just have to figure out what’s special, what shines.”
During the school year, the teens participate in programs, classes, and tutoring workshops on weekends and can attend cultural events during the week. Classes meet daily during summers, although the number of days a week spent on campus depends on each student’s course load.
The teens also regularly participate in community service programs, something Ransom-Kazembe believes is just as important as their participation in academics. “We try to find meaningful service activities in the community,” Ransom-Kazembe said. “In addition to their academic focus, we feel it is important for our students to be civic-minded.”
One of the crucial things the students do while enrolled in the Collegiate Scholars Program is participate in college preparatory workshops.
Tresa Kappil, College Advisor for Collegiate Scholars, said that conversations about college begin as early as 10th grade, including discussions about resumes, application essays and financial aid.
“One of the most important things we do is help them discover the kind of school they want to attend by allowing them to learn who they are and where they want to go in life,” said Kappil, a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools who worked for the Collegiate Scholars Program as a student in the College.
Brooks noted that the program allows the teens to see how far they can go with their education. “We’ve demystified it for them, really,” she said. “They realize that they can come to the University of Chicago and other schools of the same caliber. They know now that they can do it. They believe in themselves.”
The 60 students graduating this year have applied to some of the country’s top schools.
In addition to Chicago, other institutions include Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Duke, Stanford, Brown, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Colgate and Georgetown universities. “The horizon looks very, very bright for our students,” Ransom-Kazembe said.