Helping college dreams become reality; GC hosts 21st Century Scholars Camp

GOSHEN, Ind.- Although none of their parents graduated from college, the two-dozen eighth grade 21st Century Scholars at Goshen College

July 8-13 aspire to become doctors, nurses and computer techs. And with days filled with mathematical measurements, creative writing, bird watching and more, those dreams are starting to be realized during the college’s 21st Century Scholars Summer Enrichment Program.

“We’re geared toward encouraging students to continue their education in college,” said Zulma Prieto, the head teacher of the program, which provides college scholarships for low-income students. In addition to core classes like English, math and science, students have the opportunity to try photography, drama, radio and journalism.

“It’s very interactive, hands-on learning,” said Patricia McFarlane, assistant professor of English and director of the college’s 21st

Century Scholars program, started with a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. “We’re making college more familiar for students who don’t have that context or encouragement.”

The majority of the students at the college’s camp are Hispanic and face particular challenges in bridging the gap between junior high and high school. Camp teacher Sarah Sales said many students encounter a language barrier, plus disruptions at home. “When they go home there’s a lot of people around and not always a quiet place to study,” she said. “Many have to take care of brothers and sisters or go to work. Education is not always their first priority.”

Yet while they face challenges, the students plan to study hard so they can fulfill their dreams and career ambitions. Jonathan Perez, a

14-year-old who wants to attend Goshen College, said that he’s always been intrigued by the planets, moon and stars and he’d like to become an astronomer. “I want to figure out what made the universe begin,” he said.

Julia Perez, a 14-year-old who’d like to attend either Notre Dame or Purdue University, wants to use her bilingual skills and become a registered nurse. “I know a lot of Mexican patients who don’t know the language and they could really use help,” she said. Currently, Perez volunteers every Wednesday at the Good Samaritan Center, a local clinic for uninsured persons, where she translates for doctors who don’’ know Spanish.

As they go from identifying frogs on a fieldtrip at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center to honing in on organization during study skills class, the students develop the capabilities and enthusiasm necessary for pursuing higher education.

McFarlane receives satisfaction from student learning and enthusiasm, but she also sees her involvement with the 21st Century Scholars

program as a calling, following Christ’s call toward peace and justice. “It’s one way to work at justice and equality in our local

community,” she said. “Equal educational opportunity is one way we at Goshen College can and must work at social justice issues.”

McFarlane also believes that the program fits into the GC philosophy of “Culture for Service,” providing scholarships to students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to go to college, while college students from her Communicating Across Cultures class tutor the scholars. Many 21st Century Scholars are paired up with a mentor during the year, meeting weekly to tutor them in core subjects, help with homework, encourage them to pursue college or simply to talk.

The state of Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program grants a full-tuition scholarship at any state university in Indiana or the equivalent amount in scholarship toward any private college tuition in Indiana to eighth graders whose families are eligible for subsidized or free lunches, and who pledge to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average, refrain from using illegal drugs or alcohol and from committing any crime.

-Jessica Yoder

For information, contact Ryan Miller at (574) 535-7572 or mailto: ryanlm@goshen.edu.