Bulldog Flash Academic Institute Brings Local High School Students Closer to Their Dreams
Ever since she can remember, 14-year-old Jada Howard has wanted to be a veterinarian. Recently, she started on a path at Kent State University at Stark that will help make her dream come true.
The self-assured, analytical rising sophomore at Canton McKinley High School, along with 32 of her classmates, attended the inaugural Bulldog Flash Academic Institute, a partnership between Kent State Stark and Canton City Schools. The program is geared to help underserved students who may lack the necessary resources and make them college-ready. The institute focuses on study skills, time management, team building/collaboration, choosing a major, academic preparation for the national ACT and upcoming College Credit Plus (CCP) courses.
Understanding that some kids have barriers to college entrance and college success, Kent State Stark Dean Denise A. Seachrist, Ph.D.; Canton City Schools Superintendent Adrian Allison, J.D.; and A. Bathi Kasturiarachi, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs at Kent State Stark, envisioned a partnership that would create a pathway to higher education for Canton high school students.
Many of the students who attended the five-day higher education immersion program would be the first in their families to go to college. Success is the absolute goal, Dr. Kasturiarachi says.
“Success is what we are looking at, and not marginal success,” he adds. “If it’s marginal success, we would be disappointed. To me, the program has to have a component of excellence because it is about creating pathways for young academics by removing barriers. It is also about building a partnership between a great high school and an innovative university, and creating a living and learning community.”
Ms. Howard spoke powerfully about the importance of all students having a support system around them, from their families to teachers and mentors.
"Not many kids today get this kind of opportunity,” she says. “Every one of us needs a support system so we can move forward in our lives and take advantage of available opportunities. You get that kind of support on a college campus [such as Kent State Stark]. And if you put forth the effort, you’ll get a scholarship in the end. Knowing that I could have an opportunity like this was too good to pass up.”
A love of animals is what motivates Ms. Howard to become a vet. In addition to school and the Bulldog Flash Academic Institute, the busy future veterinarian volunteers at the Stark County Humane Society and has already shadowed a local vet. At the Humane Society, she walks and bathes dogs and enjoys chatting with customers when they come in.
Ms. Howard credits her mother with instilling the goal of a college education and sense of independence in her.
“I’m so inspired by my mother,” she says. “She has gone through fire and come out gold. Just about everything I’ve learned comes from her.”
A voracious reader, Ms. Howard adds that her father has always “lectured” her about the importance of reading.
There are social, emotional and financial obstacles that students from low-income communities have to overcome. But thanks to the Bulldog Flash Academic Institute, students such as Ms. Howard are well on their way to breaking down those barriers so they can chase their dreams.