Rural Scholars Program Continues in Virtual Mode
Just like everyone seems to be doing these days, the Rural Scholars mentors are using unconventional methods to maintain contact with the scholars and to keep the students focused on meeting their goals.
Donny Larabee, Rural Scholars coordinator, reported that the mentors are using phone calls, texts, videoconferences and social media to stay in touch with their students – and with each other.
“Though mentors and scholars had to adjust to online teaching, I witnessed them leaning on each other from the start. This goes beyond the typical mentor-to-scholar dynamics because scholars are leaning on other scholars and mentors are helping other mentors,” he reported. “Because of the strong relationship formed between everyone in this program, there was virtually no interruption in communication among us.”
So far, mentors are reporting very promising response rates from scholars. This is especially noteworthy, given that these students also had to adjust to being “in class” remotely while away from their home schools.
For the senior scholars, Larabee noted his disappointment in being unable to hold a formal ceremony to celebrate their successful completion of the program. Instead, the mentors and other staff members are working to produce a video to recognize the seniors that will be shared with them and posted on the Rural Scholars Facebook page. The video will feature pictures, quotes and music personally selected by the seniors.
The summer workshops typically held on campus each year are also being planned as remote events. One workshop will allow scholars to use NASA’s website and its virtual tour. The scholars will interact with NASA workshop presenters and its resources from their own homes.
Before the campus closed in response to the COVID-19 quarantine, Larabee began recruiting new mentors and saw an increase in applications. Some of the applicants were interviewed before the closure, so there will be mentors hired to help with administrative operations. Once the campus reopens, more applications will be reviewed, and mentors added.
Larabee is also working with school guidance counselors to collect new sixth grade recommendations for the next school year.
“We aren’t slowing down,” he said. “If anything, we are working harder at staying connected and focused on our scholars. It’s working!”
Photo A: Rural Scholars mentors keep in touch with remote meetings that “zoom” into their personal home offices.