KEEP seeks to train, retain disadvantaged students
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
This June, the College will implement a Diversity Task Force recommendation to expand its summer enrichment program for incoming disadvantaged students.
Twelve first-years will participate in the new six-week Kenyon Education Enrichment Program (KEEP), which includes an expository writing course and an applied mathematics course and gives students "a chance to get to know Kenyon and its intellectual atmosphere [before the academic year] and to make sure that certain intellectual skills that you really have to have to survive here are in place," said Assistant Professor of English Sarah Heidt, who will teach the writing course.
According to Robin Cash, director of special projects in enrollment, the students will be selected based on ethnicity, socio-economic disadvantage and first-generation status. "The name is not accidental," said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Britz. "The idea is that these kids come [to Kenyon] and engage and stay and are very successful."
The program is aimed at disadvantaged students with high academic potential who have been admitted to the College but may not have the skills necessary for success at Kenyon. "We feel like they'll make a contribution … even though by luck of geography [or] family circumstances, they just didn't get into a great high school," said Britz. "I think it's important to make sure there are kids here who don't come from privilege, but who have all the ability to make successful students."
The Kenyon experience can be "a bit of a culture shock" for some first-generation students and for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, said Britz. KEEP will help such students develop necessary skills, such as essay writing or using office hours, "with a reduced amount of pressure," said Heidt.
According to Britz, working in a tight-knit group of 12 improves individuals' chances of success. With 12 students participating each summer, the program will eventually form a KEEP community of 48 students.
• A Kenyon program
Though KEEP has many influences, according to Turner, it is modeled loosely on a national program run by the Posse Foundation, which identifies gifted, underprivileged high school students and puts them in "teams" of 10 at selective colleges and universities in an effort to develop community and individual potential, according to the Posse University of Wisconsin Madison website. KEEP is designed to achieve similar results but avoid the high expense of Posse, said President Georgia Nugent.According to Britz, the Posse Program costs roughly $1 million every four years. She said that the program pre-selects students for participating colleges and awards each student with a complete financial aid package.
"Some of [Posse's] philosophical goals, which are decreasing isolation and helping students to feel supported, are elements we have tried to simulate in KEEP," Turner said.
• KEEP in the summer
The KEEP program is an outgrowth of Kenyon's summer enrichment program, Summer Kenyon Academic Partnership, which was launched last summer. Twelve incoming first-years participated in an intensive English course, taught by Heidt in which they studied Toni Morrison's Beloved, and a shorter science overview course in which small groups conducted experiments in conjunction with faculty. According to Cash, the students may also have a research or work-related internship during the program.
Next summer, a three-week course in economics and scientific research will replace the short science course, according to Cash. The students will earn a quarter credit for English and, pending the Curricular Review Committee's decision, a quarter credit for science, she said.
The intensive coursework prepares incoming first-years for the academic and social challenges of college. Though the expository writing course is an English class, it trains students for any writing-intensive Kenyon class, said Heidt.
"By the end of the first week even we could see marked improvement … ranging from people's willingness to talk in class freely to their ability to change around the way a sentence was put together and make it stronger," she said.
"[The English course] is pretty much what got me through this year," said Christian Hinderer '10, a participant in last summer's program. "Before the summer I don't think I really had any idea how to write a paper. Professor Heidt really just started from the beginning and worked up."
As for the social aspect, "It's like the Kenyon experience, but more so because everyone gets bonded really quickly," said Heidt. Participants felt like Kenyon was "their place" by the end of the program, she said.
Hinderer concurred. "By the time I came back for the start of the year, I felt like this was already my home," he said.
• Throughout the year
According to Cash, KEEP will continue throughout the academic year. The 12 students will meet monthly to "touch base" and "troubleshoot if someone's having a problem," said Cash. The group will address issues "before they become a crisis situation."
"Continuing to tighten the connections between what happens in the summer and what happens in the school year in terms of formal mentoring and tracking of these students is going to be really important," Heidt said. In addition to attending monthly meetings, last summer's group visited Peggy Sue's Pie Shop at the end of last semester, she said.
As upperclassmen, KEEP participants will act as mentors for first-years, said Cash. "They help keep the program alive," she said. Furthermore, she said, because they will have been introduced to academic support staff before the year begins, KEEP students will act as mentors to fellow first-years as well.
• Funding and costs
KEEP will cost $79,000 annually from the College's operating budget, according to Cash. This figure includes funding from outside sources such as foundations.