Young Scholars Lays the Blueprint for College Preparation

Carla Gary founded the Young Scholars to empower under served students of color, first generation and low-income potential college students. She realized just how much her pupils were learning when students from the program’s law cohort petitioned her for more freedom last year.

“They wanted to travel across campus with no RA (Residence Assistant),” says Gary. “They even outlined the consequences if they were late or not compliant.”

She told the them not to prove her wrong. The next day they showed up 15 minutes early to class to help RAs with younger students.

Gary founded the Young Scholars in the summer of 2005. It is a week long college preparatory program where kids stay in the University of Oregon dorms, attend classes, have a business dinner and conclude the week by displaying what they’ve learned to their parents.

“I was more excited than my daughter,” says Nike Green, whose daughter is an incoming Freshman at Roosevelt.

According to UO Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) General Teaching Fellow (GTF) Divya Bheda, the schedule for the students is the same every day.

They attend morning classes in math and writing before breaking off into cohorts that include Swahili, Journalism, Education, Business, Law, History and Music.

“The cohorts sound fun,” says Cen’tory Christmas, a junior to be at Central Catholic.

He heard about the Young Scholars in 8th grade through his principal at the SEI academy.

Gary has middle school students from the Portland and Eugene area apply through recommendations from people in their schools and communities. They can go through the program from 8th grade to their junior year in high school.

The program began with only 8th graders.

Now some students have siblings and/or cousins in the program.

Tyler Price, who volunteers with the Young Scholars, is one of three members of his family to go through the program.

“My brother was the first and my cousin is currently going through it,” he says.

Gary says she doesn’t do a huge call out for applications because it would be disingenuous to have hordes of students apply for a few spots.

She has gotten inquiries from all over the state and would like to see other Oregon schools emulate the Young Scholars. Gary suggest every Oregon US school host 25-30 students for a week. Her intention is to have kids speaking in terms of college because that will have them prepared to succeed in high school.

“Young people need to become familiar,” she says. “If they don’t see it then it’s not real.”

Gary also believes living in the dorms is a powerful part of the experience because otherwise it’s just like going to class.

In the future she wants to expand the program to two weeks to include co-curricular activities like trips to the coast and the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Gary would also like to give the students some more recreation time to do things like attend a baseball game or go to the roller rink.

In the meantime, Young Scholars makes the most of seven days.

The final day of the program includes students from each cohort demonstrating what they’ve learned for their parents.

The Journalism cohort made a video of the other cohorts and left with the ability to say they’ve created a multimedia production.

The Law cohort did a presentation on freedom of speech while the Swahili students demonstrated their understanding of a different language.

In the Music cohort students did a presentation on the history of gospel and how it was integral to survival, especially when it was utilized for Negro spirituals during slavery.

The Business cohort did a presentation on personal finance, including interest, payday loans and which communities get taken advantage of by banks.

In the education cohort students designed a school in detail including how the institution would interact with communities and accommodate students with disabilities.

Lastly, the History cohort read biographies of other cohort members and explained how they were living history because many were going to be the first to attend college in their families.

Gary was still in awe after the seventh year of the program.

“It’s mind boggling,” she says. “It was a truly humbling experience.”

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