Last Friday, we welcomed to our Hill a group of 134 new high school graduates from seven states, along with their parents, grandparents, family and friends, for WKU’s inaugural Summer Scholars program. This new program provides a unique, five-week opportunity for students with below-threshold GPAs to experience a trial run at college – where they get to experience college level classes and WKU life on the Hill, while also being given a chance to demonstrate their readiness to pursue a four-year degree.
We know these students’ GPAs and their aspirations to attend WKU. What we don’t know is each student’s backstory, the obstacles faced during high school, the ability to persevere and the level of commitment to persist through challenges. In the next five weeks, we will learn these things and more.
With some extra support and assistance from us, these students can achieve their dreams of a college education. We have worked for over a year to carefully design our Summers Scholars program to provide this group with not only an opportunity to attend WKU, but to increase each student’s likelihood of earning a degree. Grounded in the literature on college retention and borrowing from best practices across the nation, our team has brought this complex project to fruition for WKU.
During the next five weeks, our campus community will wrap these students with services designed to assist them, to guide them, and to test their ability to succeed at a four-year institution. Peer mentors, career coaches, academic advisors, instructors, and financial aid counselors all will collaborate to provide each participant with tailored support.
We have challenged our scholars to embrace each aspect of the experience, to commit to improving their study habits and to lean on their support system when they need additional assistance. However, the Summer Scholars program is not just about success during the next five weeks. It is designed to provide them with a head-start on the next four years with us and to assist them through graduation in 2023.
Thank you to the members of the Summer Scholars’ Committee who demonstrated tremendous creativity and passion as they worked on this project, successfully building a program that directly supports our institutional priorities and our strategic plan. Additionally, thank you to all those playing a role in its execution.
Our institutional priority is simple - to transform the lives of our students, through educational and extra-curricular experiences that prepare them to make a good living and a good life. For our Summer Scholars, this begins during the next five weeks but will continue through the academic journey that follows. We are proud of them for making the decision to participate and to demonstrate their ability to succeed. Now, we will do our part to help them achieve their goals.
Timothy C. Caboni