Program woos top students Strong academics mark HCC studies for Rouse scholars

November 14, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

A young Ethiopian student named Henock Assefa came to the United States a little more than a year ago to pursue what many other immigrants have found -- success.

He is banking on the new Rouse Scholars Program at Howard Community College to pave the way, with strong academic training and the guarantee of admission to one of more than a dozen four-year institutions when he graduates.

The aspiring electrical engineer, who dreams of returning to his homeland to help political leaders develop the country, is among 20 students in the program, which the college began in January and named in honor of James W. Rouse, Columbia's founder.

The program enrolls highly motivated, high-achieving students who opt for two-year colleges because they cannot afford tuition elsewhere or because they want to go to school near home.

It offers courses that are more challenging than those generally offered at the two-year school and promises that participants will enter four-year institutions when they graduate.

"It's a lot of hard work -- not that I don't like hard work," said Mr. Assefa, 18, who came to the United States as a high school

senior and earned a 4.0 grade point average at Howard High School. "It means a lot to me. I like being in it because it's more challenging, and it guides us to be successful."

College officials set up the Rouse program in response to an enrollment boom at two-year colleges that has drawn many highly motivated students. More than half of Maryland's undergraduates attend two-year colleges.

To be admitted to the Rouse program, the students were required to have a high school grade point average of at least 3.2, or 3.0 if they took honors or gifted and talented courses, along with a score of more than 1,000 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Some have scholarships; others pay their own tuition.

The academic program is structured differently from the usual community college course of study. Rouse scholars take an "honors" curriculum, which this year includes specially designed English and Western Civilization classes.

They also attend a one-hour, biweekly seminar in which they talk about such concepts as leadership and community service. And each will be paired with a business or professional mentor who will help teach them about the world of work.

When they complete the program, the scholars are guaranteed admission into one of more than a dozen four-year institutions that have signed agreements with the Rouse program.

Among the institutions are Temple University, Hood College, James Madison University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Delaware, George Washington University and the University of Maryland campuses.

Though the scholars come from various backgrounds, they share an intense motivation to learn and to succeed, professors say. Many had been accepted into four-year universities but chose to attend the community college for their first two years.

Michael Stewart, 18, a lifelong Columbia resident and an Oakland Mills High School graduate, turned down a full scholarship to Morgan State University to enroll in the Rouse program.

"I like to try brand new things," said Mr. Stewart, who also is a rapper in a local musical group. "This program seemed like it would take me farther than Morgan would have."

He is studying engineering but is looking to the multimedia entertainment field as a career. He wants to do special video effects for movies.

"When people look at this program, they should not overlook it because it's at a community college," he said. "If you're going to a four-year college, you're paying for the same thing anyway."

Joe Pfeifer, 18, a Hammond High School graduate, would have gone into the work world had he not been accepted into the Rouse program. He sees HCC as a steppingstone to a career as an environmental or a biomedical engineer.

"It seemed like a great opportunity to stay close to home and learn a lot in an accelerated program without going to a four-year college," he said. "Classes are challenging."

Mount Hebron High School graduate Maureen Macrogan, 19, found herself in a bind when she applied to colleges.

"I'm the fifth of seven kids and the fifth kid to go to college," she said. "Money was a big factor in where I go."

She hopes to become a special education teacher and believes she has gotten more from Howard Community College than she would have from a four-year college, particularly small classes and a caring faculty.

The college will hold an open house Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Smith Theatre to give high school students and their parents more information about the Rouse Scholars Program.

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