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By Kelli Weir, Repository staff writer
Bulldog Flash Academic Institute is a four-year program designed to usher roughly 25 McKinley freshmen through the process of becoming college ready and then awarding them with direct admission to Kent State Stark.
Freshmen at McKinley High have a chance to enroll in a new program that, if they complete it, will guarantee their admission into a local four-year university and significant college financial help when they graduate high school.
The Canton City School District and Kent State University at Stark have teamed to create the Bulldog Flash Academic Institute, a four-year program designed to usher roughly 25 McKinley freshmen each year through the process of becoming college ready and then awarding them with direct admission to Kent State Stark and renewable scholarships to at cover at least their tuition.
The program is free for students. They are not required to commit to Kent State. The deadline for McKinley freshmen to apply is Feb. 8. An application is available online at http://tinyurl.com/BulldogFlash.
Canton City Schools Superintendent Adrian Allison said the institute, named after the district's Bulldog and Kent State's Flash mascots, fills a gap for those students not enrolled in the district's Timken Early College program who still want to go to college, but may need help getting through the enrollment process.
"I have a daughter at the high school. She is an AP student and she's everything she has to be because she's my child. In some ways, this program is not for her," Allison said. "...; She'll have a (support) system around her that will get her through some of this stuff. We have students who are really talented and have good grades, who are motivated, know they want to go to college. They may not be the kid taking AP classes or five-point classes. Those are the kids that we want. Those that (say), 'I know that my ambition is to get to college and I'm going to have a solid GPA, solid test scores and so what I need now is someone to come alongside me and support me.'"
Allison said he called Kent State Stark Dean Denise Seachrist with the idea because Kent State Stark is a four-year institution with 19 different bachelor's degree programs on a campus that is accessible - 15 minutes by car or through the public transit bus system.
"Even if they decide they want to go to another institution, it still is an opportunity to see what campus life is like, to see what college classes are like and to get access to resources that Kent State Stark has," Allison said. "It's all potential wins for our students."
Seachrist sees the partnership as a way to continue filling the university's mission.
"We are the public institution in the county and so we need to serve the public good," she said. "We are preparing these students the way we do best. We are able to reach out and help them transition to college. Whether they stay with us or wherever they go, they are getting this quality education and experience and these credits can transfer anywhere."
She believes Kent State Stark's 200-acre campus and 5,000-student enrollment gives it a big university feel while allowing faculty and staff the ability to get to know the students well enough to jump in when they need help.
"We don't want to say come here and you are on your own," she said.
Allison said the partnership is unlike other scholarship programs because Kent is working alongside McKinley staff to help students become college ready.
"I would rather have a handoff versus a pass," he said. "I want to hand off the ball for that student to go to the next step versus having to put the ball in the air. A handoff is more secure, it's immediate, we have to be right beside each other in order for that student to go to the next step."
As part of the Bulldog Flash program, students will participate in week-long summer institutes to address aspects of transitioning to college, such as how to prepare for taking the college-entrance exam and what to expect when taking college-level courses, while also incorporating interactive leadership and teamwork development activities. They also will be paired with Kent State Stark college students and mentors who will check in with them and can answer their questions, as well as receive help from Kent State Stark staff in areas of financial planning and career advising.
During the students' junior year, they will take college-level courses - and earn college credit - at McKinley High and then take college courses on Kent State Stark's campus during their senior year.
Bathi Kasturiarachi, associate dean for academic affairs at Kent State Stark, said the university can structure the students' classes so they could still participate in high school sports and other after-school activities.
Seachrist said the program also will have some built-in safety nets for those students who stumble.
"We don't want it to be that you didn't do this and now you are out," she said. "Everyone stubs their toe along the way."
Reach Kelli Weir at 330-580-8339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.