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Science and the Environment

Three Local Institutions Receive Grants for Getting Kids Ready for College

Three institutions located in the Ozarks have received money from the Missouri Department of Higher Education to give students tools they’ll need to go to college. KSMU’s Melanie Foehrweiser has more.

The College Access Challenge Grant was created five years ago by Congress.  The grant is given to programs that aim to help low-income students prepare to enter and succeed in college.

This year Missouri State University’s Springfield and West Plains campuses, and Drury University all received grants. This is the fourth year the West Plains campus has been given the award. Herb Lundy, the Dean of Student Services at MSU-West Plains, says the grant money has allowed the campus to implement Project Threshold.  That has 11 different components, one of which is the “High School Extravaganza.”

“It is a very different way of recruiting in high schools. It amounts to a pep rally for postsecondary education,” says Lundy.

Even with all of the fun of the pep rally, Lundy makes sure all those in attendance leave with the message that college is accessible and affordable. And it’s a message that Lundy says works.

“We have statistics to show that we believe this program and others has brought about an increase in postsecondary attendance by high school seniors in south central Missouri,” Lundy says.

Drury is a first year recipient of the College Access grant, and will use the money to fund its Summer Scholars Program. The program, which started in 2008, reaches out to African American students in Springfield Public Schools who show potential as leaders and scholars. Peter Meidlinger, Vice President for Undergraduate Studies at Drury, says that Drury students and staff members mentor the students and help them learn their abilities and strengths with one ultimate goal.

“To help them see, to really begin to imagine going to college, and to begin to imagine what that takes both academically as well as financially, and in every other way,” says Meidlinger.

The program accepts 7th through 9th graders and invites them back every summer until they graduate. This spring the first group of students that was involved with the program will graduate from high school. Meidlinger says the long term relationship created by the program is very important. 

“That’s really the idea behind this program is that we want to develop good close relationships with these students, so that they can see us as people who really are involved in their lives and have…who care about them, who love them. And who want to show them that we have a vested interest in their success,” Meidlinger says.  

Meidlinger says he is grateful for the grant.

“From our point of view, we’re so pleased with their (Missouri Department of Higher Edication’s) generosity because we know we can continue to have an impact on the lives of young people here,” Meidlinger says.

MSU’s Springfield campus will use its grant to fund the Missouri Innovation Academy, which is designed to get kids interested in pursuing educations in science, technology, engineering, math, and business.

Elizabeth Black, the Director of MIA says that the academy not only gives students an opportunity to be mentored by MSU faculty and people who are successful in these fields, but it also gives them tools for the future. Students attend presentations which prepare them to apply for college, and explain financial issues like the responsible use of student loans.

For KSMU News, I’m Melanie Foehrweiser.