Diversifying Higher Education – A Post Affirmative Action Path Forward
Scholars spent six weeks in an academic boot camp of sorts at Amherst College. They told Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh what they learned about themselves is just as important to their future success.
By Kerry Kavanaugh, Boston 25 News
Some Massachusetts high schoolers are heading into their senior year with some extra confidence about taking their next step after graduation. This summer, they spent six weeks in an academic boot camp of sorts at Amherst College. They told Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh what they learned about themselves is just as important to their future success.
On a warm July day, we visited the campus in western Massachusetts and found a classroom buzzing over calculus equations. But the students weren’t just working through math formulas, they were working on a formula for success in the classroom and beyond.
“I knew I wanted to have plans for after high school. But I never could imagine anything,” said Edelmis Calderon of New Bedford, who’s now entering her senior year.
“From the family that I come from, like, nobody has really gone to college,” said Kwame Asare of Worcester. “And so like, it’s kind of like a big step for me.” Asare too is entering his senior year.
Asare, who’s family immigrated from Ghana, and Calderon both said they weren’t sure they’d be ready or able to take the next big step in their education after college. The students would both be the first in their families to do it.
“I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to make it to college,” said Calderon. “I just knew I wanted to do something. But I never really thought I could.”
Enter a program called Thrive Scholars.
“We serve students who are the kinds of students who are getting virtually all A’s in high school, but they come from economically disadvantaged communities,” said Dan Navisky, executive director of the Thrive Boston office.
Navisky says even the students who are succeeding academically, need more support, especially if they are first generation college students or facing other systemic barriers to higher ed.
“So we help those students with academic preparation, with college guidance, with social emotional support and mentoring,” Navisky said.
And that mentoring continues throughout their college years.
This summer, Asare and Calderon were among 31 students from the Greater Boston area and 300 from around the country that spent six hours a day studying calculus and writing with college professors. They say they gained more than academics.
“Me living by myself, maybe far away from my family, and everything, I can handle this, like, I can do this,” said Asare.
Thrive Scholars says it identifies students by connecting with principals and guidance counselors in Massachusetts and across the country. They also examine national testing data. The program contacts the eligible students of color inviting to apply by submitting a college-like application.
There was a question about upward financial mobility,” Calderon said. She said she initially wasn’t even sure what that term meant, so she turned to the internet.
“It’s the ability for a person to do better than the people that came before them, she said. “It was an interesting question to answer. It really revealed a lot about what I wanted in the future,” she said.
A future that the students we met say now feels within reach for them.
“That’s something that I’ve learned from it just the ability to adapt to the certain situations I am in,” Asare said.
“‘Thrive’ has really helped me see that I am capable of making it after high school,” said Calderon.
The Summer Academy is free for the students. It’s funded through individual and corporate donors. Thrive Scholars says it has seen success. They claim summer academy students are earning an average 3.4. GPA and they’re graduating college at a rate of 98%.