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Delaware College Scholars gain academic, social skills through summer residential program

High-achieving students who would be the first in their families to attend college are spending part of their summer gaining the academic and social skills necessary for college success thanks to a free residential program launched in Delaware last year.
The Delaware College Scholars (DCS) program provides nearly 80 juniors and seniors the opportunity to live and learn at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown for three weeks this summer, giving Delaware students the know-how to enroll in and graduate from a four-year university and helping to ensure each student is prepared to succeed in his or her post-secondary plans. Preference is given to those from low-income families. DCS also aids in reducing “summer melt,” which describes the trend affecting 10 to 20 percent of college-eligible students, usually from low-income families, who fail over the summer to follow-through on their plans to attend college in the fall.
“These are students who already are working hard and are committed to their academic success in high school. This program provides them important support and resources to help them excel in college as well,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said.
Last year 37 rising high-school juniors were selected for the program based on their high academic performances. Each student commits to attending the program for three years, and additional juniors are added every year. This year, the students from the 2014 inaugural class have returned to join the second round of 42 attendees.
Davashaye Jones, a rising senior at Red Clay Consolidated’s Dickinson High School, said the program helped her improve her grades: “It definitely pushed me to work harder. DCS is putting me on a direct path to knowing what I want to do and where I want to go in the future.”
Students spend their days taking SAT preparation classes as well as a college essay writing course and math and literacy classes aimed to prepare them for university-level work. Courses are delivered using roundtable discussion Socratic Seminars. They also learn human development and general organization and study habits, as well as different ways to relax and reduce stress through yoga, dance and sports. Advisory sessions from current college students also help the juniors and seniors get a first-hand perspective of university living.
Throughout the year, students will visit area college campuses to gain exposure to selective universities and learn about the college admissions and financial aid process. More than a dozen visits are planned, including to Philadelphia-area campuses such as University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University; Baltimore-area schools such as John Hopkins and Loyola; Washington, D.C.-area colleges such as Georgetown and American universities; and schools in New Jersey and Connecticut such as Princeton, Quinnapiac and Wesleyan.
"Having the opportunity to visit different colleges and get a feel for those environments has been really helpful. It is giving me great insight on my future options for college,” said Maria Matias, a rising senior from Indian River. Students do not pay to participate in the program.
Food and lodging are provided, and transportation to St. Andrew’s is available. The Delaware College Scholars Program is a partnership between the Delaware Department of Education and St. Andrew’s School.
This public-private approach is the first of its kind in Delaware and hopes to serve as a model of what can be done to ensure each student in Delaware is prepared for success after high school.
“The very future of our democracy depends on education,” St. Andrew’s Headmaster Tad Roach said. “We in the private sector must do more than speak rhetorically about contributing to the public good. We have to create programs that quite literally change the lives of students across this nation.”
Traditionally, 27 percent of Delaware’s college-ready public school graduates who are from low-income families never enroll in college. DCS focuses on providing this group of students experiences that de-mystify the college application and financial aid process, and reinforce the internal and external supports necessary for college success. The creation of a residential program was intentional so students could gain the experience of being away from home by staying in dorms on St. Andrew’s campus.
“This program is pushing these scholars to not only maintain their academic prowess but to truly prepare them for the academic rigor that they will see at the next level,” said Tony Alleyne, the program’s director. “My scholars will be ready for the academics as well as the residential and social transition that they will face when they go off to college after their high school graduation.”
Students such as Moses Myers, a rising senior at Red Clay’s A.I. duPont High School, said the program has made a difference for them. "The test prep that DCS gives is definitely going to help me the next time I take the SAT,” Myers said. “The college tours help me distinguish between the different types of colleges. I previously didn't know much about colleges, but now I know the different types of colleges, what I'm interested in and what type of campus I want to go to. I stayed in contact with a lot of teachers and also hung out with the friends I made here after the program was finished. I love it!”
Attendees represent the following schools: Appoquinimink School District’s Appoquinimink and Middletown high schools; Brandywine School District’s Brandywine, Concord and Mt. Pleasant high schools; Caesar Rodney School  District’s Caesar Rodney High School; Cape Henlopen School District’s Cape Henlopen High School; Capital School District’s Dover High School; Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security charter school; Delmar School District’s Delmar High School; Indian River School District’s Indian River and Sussex Central high schools; Lake Forest School District’s Lake Forest High School; Laurel School District’s Laurel High School; Milford School District’s Milford High School; Newark Charter School; New Castle County Vo-Tech School District’s Delcastle and Howard high schools; POLYTECH School District’s POLYTECH High School; Red Clay Consolidated School District’s A.I. duPont, Conrad School of the Sciences and Dickinson high schools; Seaford School District’s Seaford High School; Smyrna School District’s Smyrna High School; private St. Andrew’s School and Woodbridge School District’s Woodbridge High School. The sending schools/districts help sponsor their students’ attendance.  
Media interested in scheduling a program visit, may contact Alleyne at
Find photos online here.
Alison May
(302) 735-4000