City students get taste of college

Higher Achievement's summer program culminates in trips to universities for middle-schoolers

August 05, 2010|By Kate Smith, The Baltimore Sun

About 120 city middle-schoolers, many of whom had previously thought college might be out of their reach, spent the past three days visiting universities as part of a nonprofit group's summer program.

Higher Achievement, which seeks to give middle school students the tools they need to gain admission to the city's top high schools, concluded its Summer Academy with a three-day "finale" college trip to Old Dominion University in Virginia and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

On Thursday, the students were reunited with their parents. Several students and their parents said that the visits helped them realize that attending college is a real possibility.

"It's our goal, not just hers, for Destinee to go to college," said Naté Scott of Edmondson Village in West Baltimore, whose daughter Destinee Green participated in the program. "We travel all the way to the east side for her to do [Higher Achievement], but it's worth it."

During their visits, the students toured the colleges and went to information sessions, where they learned about the campuses.

In addition to the college trip, Summer Academy provides a rigorous curriculum of math, literature, science and social studies with an additional elective course like African drumming, creative writing or, Destinee's favorite, debate.

"I really learned how to get my point through," said Destinee, who is a seventh-grader. "It was an excellent program."

For many of the students, including Destinee, the program will continue in the fall where they will be taken straight from their middle schools to the Higher Achievement sites. The After-School Academy features an intensive mentoring program with focuses on math and literature. During the program, the students are also fed dinner and are driven back to their homes.

"Before Higher Achievement, I was a pretty average student. My mom was strict on me and I did as I was told," said Erica Pitts, the spokeswoman for Higher Achievement and a graduate of the program herself. "But it changed my expectations for myself. I was in an environment where everyone was doing good and I adapted. I totally understood where my mom was coming from."

Ya'Maya Henderson, a sixth-grader at East Baltimore Community School, has been involved with the program for a full year and her mother, Shantavia Green, has already seen improvement.

"It's so important for a child to learn at an early age the importance of education," Green said. "We've already seen Ya'Maya's test scores improve."

Destinee just began her involvement with Higher Achievement this summer, but already is excited to come back to the program in the fall.

"I want to be a surgeon, a heart surgeon," she said. "I know Higher Achievement's going to help me do that."

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