students in front of the KSU rock
Prioritizing Student Success

Making a Difference for Regional Students

The Rising Scholars program at each of the Kent State regional campuses has lofty goals for the 2023-24 academic year including high-impact and high-energy activities for scholars in every grade.

The Rising Scholars Program combines mentoring with assistance from local communities and businesses to provide support for young adults beginning in seventh grade. The program allows them to maximize their all-important high school years and focus on making well-informed career choices after graduation.

“Rising Scholars is a great program for our local youth,” said Paul Dykshoorn, academic program director for Rising Scholars at Kent State Tuscarawas. “We mentor each student throughout their middle school and high school years. We teach them life lessons as well as help with issues going on at school.”

Program coordinators, mentors and scholars stayed busy this summer with workshops, field trips and encounters that helped bridge the break from the last school year to the new academic year.

Support from individual donors and grants help to sustain the program and allow each campus to offer learning opportunities and mentorship to students throughout the year. “We are so grateful for the financial support we receive, all of which makes this program possible,” noted Jessica Paull, Ph.D., academic program coordinator for the Columbiana Rising Scholars programs.

rising scholar students in front of a field painting

Around the Region

The Ashtabula program serves students in grades seven through 11 from the Ashtabula Area City Schools. There are 30 scholars (six from each grade) and five mentors.

Natalie Huya, Ashtabula program director, led a four-week virtual summer camp based on five categories: investigate, imagine, explore, create and inspire. Throughout the school year, weekly one-on-one scholar/mentor sessions will be held at the schools.

The Columbiana County program continues to have an impact on students from Columbiana County, with 137 scholars this academic year from 11 school districts in grades seven through 12.

At the beginning of the new academic year, the program had nine mentors, a graduate assistant and a full-time master mentor to work with the scholars. Two of the newest mentors are graduates of the Rising Scholars program who are now Kent State students. Numerous activities are planned for this academic year, including participation in the NASA HUNCH program, study skills workshops and programs about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for students entering college.

The Geauga and Twinsburg Academic Center program currently includes 38 scholars in grades seven through 11, from five local school districts. Throughout the academic year, leaders meet monthly with scholars from each district to develop socioemotional standards and engage in career exploration activities.

The Stark program includes 94 scholars in grades nine through 12. The Rising Scholars Summer Institute featured a series of workshops designed for each high school class of students who explored careers in education, health care, science, math and music. They also learned about the importance of communication and gratitude in interacting with others.

Students in the Class of 2024 focused on life after high school, including college scholarship applications, finances, maximizing college resources and the basics of scheduling college classes. They will be the first graduating class of Rising Scholars from the Stark Campus program.

The Trumbull program focuses on high school juniors and seniors and also provides programming for students in grades three through 12. This Rising Scholars program is unique because it partners with Inspiring Minds of Warren rather than specific local school districts.

More than 300 Inspiring Minds students in grades three through eight spent a day on the Kent State Trumbull Campus for College Expo Day where they participated in hands-on activities and introductory college workshops, including personal branding, college preview and a visit to the police academy.

The Tuscarawas program includes nearly 40 students in grades seven through 11, representing three local school districts. During the summer, scholars participated in Manufacturing Camp at the Buckeye Career Center where they learned about local manufacturing companies and job opportunities. Scholars also enjoyed hands-on activities during the Summer Fun workshops in Kent. The highlight was a visit to the Engineering Department for a robotics workshop, during which the scholars made their own robotic grippers and were able to use the FANUC robot.

Kent State students who have similar experiences regarding family life or socioeconomic challenges serve as mentors to guide these promising middle and high school students through difficult personal and academic situations. When student participants commit to the program, a free college education awaits them at a Kent State regional campus. They will also become the next generation of mentors who “pay back” their community for this generous support. The programs can continue to grow as more philanthropic funding is received.

“Our goal is that each one of our Rising Scholars is enlisted, enrolled or employed by the time they graduate high school,” Dykshoorn said. “The program continues to grow, and we cannot wait to see what each of our Rising Scholars do in the future.”

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