Rising Scholars: Success Stories in the Rough

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The warning signs are clear. Students as young as sixth-grade exhibit grades, behaviors, and income levels that can predict their likelihood of failing to graduate from high school six years later. Thankfully, the Rising Scholars program at Kent State University Geauga and the Twinsburg Academic Center now stands in the gap, providing mentorship and support for a select group of at-risk students who show promise.

The first set of Rising Scholars were welcomed to Kent State Geauga on October 11 by Dr. Robin Dever, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Middle Childhood Education Program, and student mentors Abby Clarke, communications major and Berkshire High School graduate, and Carmen Robinson, nursing major and Bedford High School graduate. 

Two seventh-grade students from each of four area school districts (Berkshire, Cardinal, Twinsburg, and Nordonia Hills) were selected at the close of their sixth-grade year for this program. Selection criteria included meeting a family income requirement, being a potential first-generation college student, and maintaining academic and attendance requirements. Next year and each following year, an additional ten students will be added to the Rising Scholars program until a total of 48 students are enrolled, along with an increasing number of Kent State Geauga students as mentors.  

Without intervention, these middle school students would likely struggle while navigating their way through college preparation and mastering the skills needed to become successful in college or whatever career path they choose, Professor Dever explains. The Rising Scholars program intends to equip these students with skills needed to become successful as adults. These include communication and leadership skills, community involvement, organization, time management, and decision-making.

On their first day as Rising Scholars, students worked with mentors to create long- and short-term goals that they will track during their monthly mentoring sessions. They also engaged in a community service project, making personal hygiene care packages for members of the community.

“The overall response of the day was very enthusiastic and positive,” Prof. Dever reports. “The students seemed to really enjoy being part of the Kent State community as well as meeting students from the other school districts. They were able to form bonds with other students whom they would have never otherwise met.” 

For the remainder of their years before high school graduation, Rising Scholars will work with their mentors on skills to ensure their future success in college, the workforce or military service. They will also participate in academic summer workshops and biannual workshops linking educational options to local careers.

Any college-bound Rising Scholar may apply for a sponsored scholarship covering the cost of tuition at Kent State Geauga. To be eligible, they must have completed the entire program, maintained a minimum 2.5 GPA, and agreed to serve as a university student mentor for new scholars entering the program. Scholarship recipients are then expected to work in northeast Ohio for a specified amount of time after college graduation.

Meanwhile, the Rising Scholars program will be the Geauga Campus and Twinsburg Academic Center's first-ever featured fund on campus for Giving Tuesday, December 3. The Middlefield Banking Company has chosen to match the first $1,875 that is donated to this fund –- the amount needed to send one student through the Rising Scholars program for a year. 

As of November 1, anyone interested in supporting Rising Scholars can visit our Giving Tuesday webpage. Through December 2, the fund will receive an extra boost of $500 from the Kent State Foundation for every 15 new donors to the Rising Scholars campaign.

“First-generation college students often struggle both socially and academically,” Professor Dever says. “They struggle with navigating the process of finding a university that best meets their needs, applying to a college, applying for financial aid, and generally, how college works. This includes how to register for courses, what expectations are for students, and finding a school/life balance. First-generation students lack the mentoring from family members to help them through these processes and can then become frustrated and leave college. One of the goals of this program is to help these students overcome these frustrations and mentor them through these steps.”  

Even if a Rising Scholar decides to opt-out of college education, the skills they gain before graduation — such as resume writing, interviewing, and financial literacy — are essential for success in whatever career path they take. “Additionally, interpersonal skills such as communication, workplace etiquette, and time management are critical,” Professor Dever says.  

With this support system now in place, at-risk students can face the future with more hope and confidence. Over time, these diamonds in the rough are set to shine through to fulfilled potential as Rising Scholars and successful adults. 

Your kindness and generosity could be the difference between students continuing their education or having to put their dreams on hold. Please contact Molly Smith at 440-834-3761 to hear of the different ways you can make a difference in the lives of our students, through a year-end gift. 

Thank you! Your generosity helps our students shine even brighter!

POSTED: Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 8:58am
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - 9:52am
Estelle R. Brown