Program gives students head start

by Yolanda Sly

Many incoming freshman spend their last days before school starts working, relaxing, or enjoying time with friends. But at the University’s Summer Institute, 100 incoming freshman are beginning their college careers early.
The institute, a seven-week course in its sixth week, allows qualified incoming freshman of color to take summer courses such as freshman composition, American studies and math.
Sue W. Hancock, director of the African American Learning Resource Center, said, “This program helps students identify and utilize resources at the University, while interacting with faculty, learning what professors do.”
The program is also an opportunity for students to evaluate their study habits and see their strengths and limitations before they start at the University, Hancock added.
Founded in 1978, the program originally focused on students who came from school districts that had not addressed students’ academic needs. So the program offered college preparation classes. Now the program also offers more advanced classes that University students typically take, Hancock said.
Before they are accepted into the program, students are intensely screened. For example, 200 applications have to be reviewed before 25 students are selected, Hancock said.
Barbara Chapin, director of the Office of Minority and Special Student Affairs, said the University’s Summer Session office pays for the summer tuition and housing of institute students. This money comes out of University funds for diversity students, she added.
Students participating in the institute live in University housing and attend daily classes, which are followed by lunch and study breaks.
Program director Eric Moore said students have access to tutors, who assist them in their studies, and other University programs to help familiarize them with the University campus. Students are not permitted to hold jobs, which allows them to concentrate on their studies, Hancock said.
But Moore said the program is also a time of fun. Students participated in their own olympic games, a volleyball tournament and field trips.
Renee Pewaush, a student in the American Indian Learning Center, said she didn’t want to spend her summer in school. But she’s having fun, she said, and learning the skills she will need this fall.
Justin Huenemann, a counselor at the American Indian Learning Resource Center, said teaching students about different cultures is also a goal of the program.
“It’s a time for minority students to feel together and to hear other viewpoints before entering a large university setting,” Huenemann said.
Elvira Carrizal, a student in the Chicano/Latino Learning Resource Center, said she’s enjoying learning about different cultures.
“It’s really interesting to learn firsthand about a culture from students of that culture,” Carrizal said. “I can express who I am and where I’m from.”
Many at the institute hope the students share their summer experiences with others this fall, even if it’s just giving directions.
Ronnie Dukes, a student in the African American Learning Resource Center, said he is better prepared for the fall.
“I have a lot of friends coming this fall I can help out,” Dukes said. “I’m more comfortable here than I would be in the fall. I also have a support group.”