University of Cincinnati s Turner Scholars From Summer 2004 Turning in Apps for UC Class of 09

UC's Turner Scholars from the summer of 2004 are turning in their college applications for the UC Class of ’09 just as a new batch of Ohio high-school students begin to turn in their applications for the Darwin T. Turner Scholars 2005 summer program.

“This program was very much a blessing,” said Robin Miller, mother of summer 2004 participant Joshua Miller. “It took him to a whole different level and made me more confident that he could come to UC and succeed.”

The Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program addresses the need for young men and women of color to receive a quality college education. During the six-week summer program, students agree to participate in activities and programs designed to improve their personal and academic skills. In exchange for this participation, as well as completing six hours of community service, the students receive a four-year scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. During the summer program itself, the students receive campus room and board for six weeks as well as a $600 stipend. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native (or First) American or Hispanic American and a permanent resident of the state of Ohio.

UC established the “Minority Scholars Program” in 1976 and rechristened it the “Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program” in 1989. But who was Darwin T. Turner?

Darwin T. Turner.

Darwin T. Turner.

Darwin T. Turner earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from UC in 1947 and 1949, respectively. So what — so did 451 other undergraduates in 1947. But Darwin T. Turner was African American. He earned his degree with honors. And he was only 16, the youngest person to graduate from the university, a record that still stands. Turner was admitted to UC when he was 13, an age at which most other young men are just starting high schoolSounds like an unusual young man — from an unusual family. Turner’s mother, Laura (Knight) Turner, herself entered UC at the young ate of 15 and went on to earn the first of her four degrees before she turned 19. (Her degrees were bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.) Darwin Turner’s grandparents also held multiple degrees, many of which were from the University of Cincinnati. Clearly there was a strong commitment to education in the Cincinnati Turners.

Darwin T. Turner continued to prove himself to be special even as he matured. Turner continued his academic career after UC, earning his PhD doctorate in English and American dramatic literature from the University of Chicago in 1956, and was the Dean of the African American World Studies Program at the University of Iowa until his death in 1991. He authored or edited 20 books and many articles. He focused much of his research on the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Jean Toomer and Ralph Ellison. He also published extensive literary criticism of the works of Joel Chandler Harris, whose folk stories introduced “Brer Rabbit,” “Brer Fox,” “Uncle Remus” and other characters to generations of children but whose works also introduced racist stereotypes to those children and their parents.

UC presented Turner with an honorary doctorate in 1983 and named Turner Hall for him 20 years later.

Where is the Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program today? Alive and well!

This past August, a celebratory luncheon was held to honor 11 students of color who would be returning to their homes with a four-year scholarship to UC in their back pockets. Joshua Miller was one of the “eloquent eleven.”

“This was great!” Josh Miller affirmed at the luncheon. “This is an excellent program. The most special thing for me was learning a lot about myself and maturing.”

Josh’s mother, Robin, agreed. “I still stare at him and can’t recognize him.” She went on to cite the advantage of his being in a more diverse atmosphere than his high school in East Canton. “He grew up fairly sheltered, but here he gets to be around adults and a variety of people. It was nice to see ethnic groups working together.”

Josh’s grandfather, Arnold Oden, attended the luncheon also. “The program provides the students a look at college life so they know what to expect when they get here and what they want to major in.” Josh hopes to test his musical skills at UC and even played an original composition on saxophone at the luncheon.

“They all want to come here now!” added Robin Miller.

Derrick Jenkins.

Derrick Jenkins.

Derrick Jenkins graduated from UC with a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and recently received a master’s degree in educational foundations from CECH. As an Ethnic Programs & Services program coordinator, he oversees the Turner Olympics, a competition for the current Turner undergraduates.

“I saw leaders emerge,” says Jenkins. The Turner Olympics were created in 2003 by the students as a way to encourage more social interaction between the Turner Scholars. The Olympics included balloon toss, a tug-o-war and basketball competitions.Besides a strong commitment to academics, part of being a Turner Scholar means feeling a strong commitment to helping others. Many of the Turner Scholars come back to work for the program as tutors and to UC as staff members.

Dante Sanderson.

Dante Sanderson.

Dante Sanderson was one of the summer 2004 tutors.

“This is very good for minority students,” says Sanderson, a Hughes High School graduate. “It’s a good college experience. That’s why I volunteered to help.”

Another tutor, Alex Albuquerque, graduated from Elder High School before coming to UC under the Darwin Turner program. He recently graduated from UC with a degree in biology and had just received word the week before the luncheon that he had been accepted into UC’s College of Medicine. What does he think of the program?

“I love it — it’s like a family,” says Albuquerque, then he corrected himself. “It is a family.” He emphasized the value for high-school students in meeting people from large international corporations as well as people who own their own businesses. He came back as a tutor in order to give back.

“I’ve been given so much,” says Albuquerque. “So, much is expected!”

The 2004 Summer Experience Scholars were sent on their way after words of inspiration from Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie, Director of Ethnic Programs & Services and the African American Cultural and Research Center. He noted that when you meet children, you also meet the parents. He advised the students not to take life and opportunities for granted saying, “Your attitude will determine your altitude.”

Applications are now being taken for the 2005 Darwin T. Turner Summer Experience. For more information, current high-school juniors should contact LaShanta Jones or visit the Ethnic Programs & Services Web page.

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