This past summer 14 Institute for Student Achievement (ISA) students participated in the second year of the High School Summer Scholars Program. The program provides students with the opportunity to participate in a four week program to earn college credit from New Jersey City University’s (NJCU) Harborside campus. This year’s participants took a three-credit American History course, comparable to a college freshman class. The course, as well as books, lunch, and transportation, were funded by ETS’s Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy. Students preparing to enter their junior year of high school were selected to participate in the program based on their academic standing and commitment to traveling to the campus three days per week.
“Some students had to take three trains to get to the Harborside campus and one student had to take four trains and a bus,” said Juan Carlos Reyes, educational programs administrator for ISA. “This is a reminder that when we set the bar high, students are willing to step up to the challenge. Because of this partnership, these students have a head-start and are more likely to pursue higher education.”
Jason D. Martinek, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at NJCU, led these students through small group discussions, an approach which is comparable to the ISA inquiry-based model, helping students feel comfortable sharing their ideas. Students were given the freedom to explore ideas and participate in a higher level of intellectual inquiry.
Also, Martinek noted that in just a few weeks, he saw improvement in the students’ written work. He was extremely pleased in their ability to meet the expectations he laid out and their willingness to work toward improvement.
As part of their instruction, ISA students did various walking tours with Timothy White, assistant professor of history at NJCU. Lower Manhattan provides many different layers of history, which led to discussions about Ellis Island, anti-war protests, the stock exchange, and more. White said visiting the Brooklyn Bridge was especially notable. “The Brooklyn Bridge was a familiar part of most of the students’ childhoods,” explained White. “However, it was powerful to watch their faces as they walked across the bridge, placing their hands on the wires to understand the physics, while also learning about the history of the bridge.”
In the beginning, students were relying on White for what came next on the walking tours. As time went on, the students’ confidence increased and they started taking more initiative to navigate the city, leading to spontaneous discovery and discussion. White also noticed that, while traveling to the next historical spot, students were discussing the positives and negatives of various universities and colleges, such as private vs. public.
In addition to the course’s instruction and discussion, High School Summer Scholars Program students had a chance to meet NJCU students from one of the most diverse campuses in the area, helping to solidify the notion that going to college is an attainable goal for everyone.
Students who successfully completed the High School Summer Scholars Program mostly received As and Bs, an impressive fete for at –risk high school students. The goal of the program is to help high school students obtain college credit prior to going to college, however, it also helped familiarize students with the college experience and help them realize that college is within their reach.