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June 21, 2007
A university education is considered a birthright in some families, and inconceivable in others. In 2000, William Sparkman, dean of the College of Education, established the Dean's Future Scholars program to help at-risk students gain the academic skills, encouragement and mentoring and necessary self-confidence to make college a reality. Approximately 415 students participate throughout the school district.
"The Dean's Future Scholars program recruits students who will be the first in their family to attend and, most importantly, to graduate from college," Sparkman said. "Many of these students benefit from additional academic and social support. We encourage them to set challenging – yet attainable – goals such as raising their grades, taking additional math and English courses and earning their high school diploma."
The Dean's Future Scholars (DFS) will host four separate programs June 11 – July 27 at the University campus for 210 middle and high school students. All of the DFS students are tutored and participate in campus tours and daily recreation activities.
DFS high school students enroll in University level mathematics and English courses, work in departments and non-academic units and attend a campus orientation to become more comfortable on campus.
"There are three critical predictors of success for students entering college: academic skill, building a relationship with mentors and taking a college course or two while a student is still in high school." said Robert Edgington, program coordinator.
"Math is the gateway to high school graduation and college acceptance," Edgington said. "Some of our students need more help. We offer pre-English and math courses over the summer to better prepare for first-year math and English courses once the fall semester begins. This little extra support may allow them to graduate in four years, which is a reasonable expectation for University students."
Edgington collaborates with Washoe County School District teachers and counselors to recruit up to 50 students from the sixth grade to participate each year.
In 2006, the first class of DFS students graduated from high school. Nearly 50 percent of that first "class" of future scholars enrolled in college. In 2007, the numbers soared to nearly 80 percent.
This summer, those scholars have returned to mentor younger program participants. According to Edgington, mentors are essential to the program's success.
"Because mentors were DFS students themselves, we understand how to help our students to succeed in college," said Carolina Rodriguez, a DFS mentor for four years. Rodriguez graduated from the University last May with a bachelor's in business. She plans a career in human resources management but has arranged her work schedule to accommodate her DFS commitment.
For the summer session, Rodriguez and other mentors work with small groups of DFS students on campus. Mentors and students review homework, engage in a learning activity, have lunch and attend afternoon classes together.
"This program is so wonderful for kids who wouldn't know how to prepare for college," Rodriguez said. "We help students feel comfortable so by the time they enroll, they know they belong here."
Mornings are dedicated to academic development; students work in campus departments and non-academic units in the afternoons. Job placement is available to 11th and 12th grade students.
"The students are working in various jobs this summer," said Amy Kight, a University graduate student and supervisor of the DFS job placement program. "Campus jobs help them learn about their potential major, the campus, and an important network of staff and faculty who can help them once classes start."
The program's job placement component is funded by a $60,000 contract with the City of Reno under the auspices of JOIN and Nevadaworks, Inc. to implement a workforce development project.
"We want students to work on campus so they don't have to leave to earn money," Edgington said. "Campus employment is desirable because students work around their academic schedule and prioritize their education."
"The Dean's Future Scholars has delivered results for both Washoe County School District and the College of Education," Sparkman said. "The program has placed mentors and tutors in the community's at-risk middle and high schools and boosted high school graduation rates for participating students. In the long-term, I hope we will attract greater numbers of diverse students into teacher education."
Last February, University President Milt Glick began mentoring Procter Lotulleiei, a Dean's Future Scholar participant and Hug High School sophomore. Lotulleiei is also part of ASCENT (All Students College Educated in Nevada Today), a new program sponsored by Hug High and the University, which pairs successful members of the community with ambitious high school sophomores to help them reach their goal of attending the University.
Those who are interested in more information about the Dean's Future Scholars program are encouraged to contact Bob Edgington at (775) 784-4237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.