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Short Trip, Big Gains for Students in New UC Bridge Program

The UC Scholars Academy bridge program with Hughes STEM High School focuses on college readiness for the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. UC’s president and provost commit new funding toward the program’s growth.

Date: 6/16/2015 9:07:00 AM
By: Cathy Barney
Other Contact: Tom Robinette
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Joseph Fuqua II, UC Creatives Services; provided

UC ingot   A dozen teens cavorting around the University of Cincinnati campus have garnered the attention of UC President Santa J. Ono and UC Provost Beverly Davenport. Participating in the UC Scholars Academy, the Hughes STEM High School juniors and seniors have experienced a packed three-week residency of classes, hands-on labs, speakers, field trips, cultural experiences and the challenges of college life.
Rob Richardson and Ganda Kane
UC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Robert Richardson Jr., right, posed with Robert Richardson Jr. Scholars Award recipient Hughes STEM High School student Ganda Kane on June 26 at the Russell C. Myers Alumni Center. (Joseph Fuqua II)

The most recent and formal step in a longtime partnership between the university and its high-needs neighbor, the president and provost have each committed $100,000 toward growing the college- and career-prep program.

Fueled by a White House initiative to prepare more students for college and its own diversity mission, the University of Cincinnati Scholars Academy with Hughes STEM High School immerses students in science, technology, engineering and math with the eventual goal of college readiness.

“Our nation's capacity to be competitive depends on our ability to nurture the next generation of scientists and engineers,” according to Ono. “Our Hughes program allows us to do this right in our own backyard and to do so with a diverse set of students from our city's core neighborhoods.”

Davenport, whose office is matching Ono’s gift, says she is “proud to invest in this innovative collaboration between our colleges and Hughes STEM High School.  Bringing young scholars to campus to work with our inspiring faculty is a way of not only being a supportive neighbor, but to grow a new generation of scholars and leaders.”

Several of those scholars, Hughes juniors Hazaiah Yisreal of Western Hills, Al-leon Morgan of Mount Washington, Adama Diallo of Westwood and Caitlin Morgan of Price Hill, have been friends since seventh grade and planned to attend the residency as a group. They prepared by writing their application essays together.

“It’s a great college-prep exercise, and we get to meet a lot of STEM professionals between studying,” Morgan, says.

During the students’ first afternoon, Air Force ROTC Lt. Col. Tyler Moore, an assistant professor of aerospace studies, introduced leadership exercises in which the Hughes students excelled. And the adventures – flirting with robots, remotely controlling a health-care facility, dabbling in art and the collapse of bee colonies, racing their fuel-cell cars – continued, culminating in the June 26 celebration when students reunited with their families.

Components like leadership support the program’s goal of narrowing the widening college-completion gap between high- and low-income students. According to a 2013 report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy and the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, those from high-income families were eight times (77 percent) more likely to obtain a bachelors’ degree by age 24 than those from low-income families.
UC Scholars Academy participants Jarred Morgan and Mary Ndao
UC Scholars Academy participants Jarred Morgan and Mary Ndao work through a DAAP exercise that supplements the STEM-focused residency.

The developing program has generated excitement from other community partners in terms of funding, tying into existing programs and creating mentorships and internships. “By exposing underserved kids to new opportunities and expectations, we will transform their lives and, in doing so, transform the region. As a university, our success is not solely tied to rankings or enrollment, but what we do to create bridges of opportunity for the youth in our city,” according to University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees Vice Chair Rob Richardson Jr.

Richardson knows firsthand how dramatically a residential college experience can alter a career path. He credits UC’s Emerging Ethnic Engineers Summer Bridge Program with preparing him to enter and succeed in the university’s College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Law. That’s where he says his “academic debt,” years of falling behind, were erased and why he is so committed to granting struggling neighborhood students the same chance.

A STEM school since 2009, Hughes has previously teamed with UC, but not this “intentionally,” says principal Kathy Wright. “We’ve collaborated on this from beginning to implementation with a design to specifically impact Hughes students.” She says this partnership is a game-changer for “the way the university works with K12 (kindergarten through 12th-graders), the way Hughes interacts with the university and the opportunity to edit the process and make it the most valuable for kids.”

The UC Scholars Academy of STEM professionals brings a new voice to Hughes students “that resonates,” Wright says. “The value of having really smart professionals create a new place for kids to explore, ask and have questions answered definitely gives them the exposure they need to see what future is possible. ”

Twelve Hughes students, from among 30 who applied, spent their three weeks moving through fundamental, problem-solving and critical-skills classes to meeting and listening to STEM professionals, learning about career paths and options, exploring team building, creating a project with the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), recreational time and enrichment such as meditation.
UC Scholars Academy graduates
UC engineering professor Whitney Gaskins, middle, smiles as she posed with graduates of the UC Scholars Academy bridge program with Hughes STEM High School on June 26 at the Russell C. Myers Alumni Center. (Joseph Fuqua II)

Organized through the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, & Human Services and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the summer academy has garnered university-wide backing from the Office of the President, the Diversity Office, College of Nursing, DAAP, College of Allied Health Sciences and the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

This UC Scholars Academy will grow into year-round support for Hughes STEM students and reach lower grades. In five years, Richardson envisions “200 Hughes STEM kids on full University of Cincinnati scholarships.”

Pioneering co-op education and the oral-polio vaccine, the University of Cincinnati is a catalyst for positive transformation and views the Scholars Academy as a powerful model.

For more information on the UC Scholars Academy, contact Kathie Maynard, director of partnership and outreach in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, & Human Services, at or 513-675-3536.