Summer Program Will Offer Lessons in Civics, Literature and a Sense of Connectedness

Students with Kent State’s Upward Bound program and Akron's Firestone High School will have the opportunity to participate in a new pilot program on campus this summer that will use literature to increase college preparedness, civic engagement and a sense of belonging.   

The five-week course is being funded by a $15,000 Teagle Foundation Knowledge for Freedom Program grant. The lead professor is Mark Bracher, Ph.D., professor in the department of English and director of the Neurocognitive Research Program for the Advancement of Humanities. Key personnel for the project are Sonya Williams, executive director for the University Outreach and Engagement Office of the Provost and Patricia Robinson, Upward Bound Evaluation and Grants project director. 

The Teagle Foundation program will “contribute to Kent State’s mission of enhancing students’ ability to “thrive, belong, graduate, and become lifelong learners committed to a life of impact "according to the program summary. Up to 15 students, who were sought out because of their love of reading and writing, will participate in the program. 

“Receiving the Knowledge of Freedom planning grant is a great opportunity for our pipeline students who have a love of writing and reading many of the best works of literature in the literary cannon,” Williams said. “Students will use these bodies of work, along with relevant fieldtrips to explore democracy, civic engagement, citizenry and freedom; aligning each with their belief in and perception of community. This is yet another gateway entry for college access and success for high school students entrusted to University Outreach and Engagement.” 

To reduce “marginalization and exclusion” that that many students may feel in society and academia, the program aims to help students recognize the myriad of ways in which they are interconnected with other people, including those who may be quite different from them. The program is designed to: 

  • Enhance their sense of belonging.

  • Help students achieve a sense of purpose.  

  • Enable them to help bridge the “widening chasms of the current social and political landscape.” 

    Upward Bound students during the summer of 2022

A full program proposal will be submitted in November 2023 for a three-year program grant, which is typically $250,000. Launch date for the program would be summer 2024.  

The program’s success will be assessed through qualitative and quantitative measures by evaluating students’ progress in comprehending the various forms of interconnectedness and recognizing their presence in their own personal and civic lives 

Another quantitative measure of the project’s success will be the percentage of students who apply to college, are admitted into college, enroll in college and graduate from college. 

The program will also help first generation students afford an opportunity to experience college entry and access through an affinity of literature. 

"Oftentimes, first generation students come from families with limited incomes, which drastically reduces the ability to travel and experience what other families take for granted," Williams said. "Literary works allow students to visit places and adventures through writings. Five weeks of reading will propel thoughts and ignite ways to inform who they are, what they can become and set them apart for the greater good."   

POSTED: Monday, April 24, 2023 11:20 AM
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2023 02:59 PM
April McClellan-Copeland