Clark State College will welcome 75 local junior high/middle school students into the Clark State Scholars program with a ceremony to be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 9 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 South Fountain Avenue, Springfield.
The Scholars program is a participatory program for students entering eighth grade that, if successfully completed, results in three years of tuition-free education at Clark State through the efforts of the Clark State Foundation.
“The Scholars program is one of the avenues to help students fulfill their dreams. Earning a tuition-free scholarship takes the financial pressure of attending college for the students as well as their parents,” said Karen Hunt, director of the Clark State Scholars Program. “Exposing the Scholars to career choices, visits to the campus, and connecting them with a mentor, helps them develop academically and socially. “
The Scholars program began 19 years ago inducting middle school students into the Springfield City District. The Scholars program expanded in the last four years to include students from Champaign County (Graham and Urbana School Districts) and Clark County (Clark-Shawnee and Tecumseh School Districts).
“The Champaign Scholars Program has had a wonderfully positive impact on our students,” said Charles Thiel, superintendent of Urbana City Schools. “In speaking with our Scholars, many of them recognize the opportunity afforded to them to attend college which most likely would have not happened without being involved in the program.”
Thiel said he has been struck by the future career focus of the students involved in the program.
“The vast majority of them have a concrete idea of a future career and in many cases a solid plan for getting the education and certifications they need to meet their career goals,” he said.
Middle school counselors play a significant role in identifying students eligible to participate in the Clark State Scholars program. Accepted students must maintain a 2.0 or greater grade point average, 93 percent, or better school attendance, exhibit good citizenship and participate in program activities.
A critical component of the Clark State Scholars program is the development of a support system to encourage the young scholars to work toward a college education and to help expose them to enrichment experiences they might not otherwise have. Thus, students in the Scholars program are mentored through their high school years.
Students are connected with a mentor during their high school years. They meet once a month for 30 minutes to an hour. Mentors provide valuable support and guidance to first-generation students. High school students who receive mentor support are more likely to achieve their goals and be successful in college. Mentors are critical to the success of our students and play a vital role in strengthening our communities.
“The added support, advice, and feedback from a mentor help them define their goals. I have the honor of serving as director of the program as well as a mentor,” said Hunt. “I simply listen to my dynamic mentees. We discuss ideas and participate in activities in preparing them for college and making successful life choices.”
Those interested in becoming a mentor can apply at: https://buff.ly/2WJSGjl