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Program reinforces learning, gives students a taste of college
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Eleni Vincent takes notes Monday during a Summer Scholars Institute language arts class at Gainesville State College. - photo by Tom Reed

Middle school and high school students, for the 20th year, are getting a taste of Gainesville State College.

The Summer Scholars Institute, one of the college’s recruiting programs, helps make post-secondary education accessible to those who are usually under-represented in higher education. This year’s program draws more than 120 students from Gainesville, Hall, Habersham and Barrow school systems to sharpen their academic skills.

“The 20th celebration is a really big deal for us because a lot of schools with similar programs have closed due to funding,” said Robin Anyanwu, the institute’s director. “This year is special because we have scholars from former years coming to speak to our parents and attendees. We’ve never done that before.”

From June 28 to July 23, students take classes in language arts, math, science, history, physical education and career planning. It’s a three-year program that targets rising eighth- through 10th-grade students to reinforce learning during the summer months.

Third-year participants earn high school credit toward graduation.

“It keeps the students involved during the summer and helps them to be more confident,” said Robin Bates, a South Hall Middle School teacher who has taught at the institute for seven years. “They can be on a college campus and see that it’s an option. They see the people, meet the students and know it’s a real possibility for them.”

Bates, who taught an Agatha Christie murder mystery novel on Monday, helps the students to meet eighth-grade level state standards for language arts. After reading, they dissect the plot, setting and characters and then create a visual presentation of what happened in the book.

“What did we find out here?” she asked the students after reading a scene. “How can the police use that information to find the killer?”

The students record the clues, characters and circumstances in notebooks they created to resemble investigative police files. The visual helps them grasp the concepts better, Bates said.

“The program takes them from being an average student to a great student or a great student to a fantastic student,” she said. “Basically, it gives them a leg up on next year.”

The students who participate in the institute do not pay, but the cost per student is approximately $850 and covers teacher and student supplies, two meals per day for 19 days, transportation to and from the college, educational field trips, teacher and staff salaries and uniforms. If students complete the program and decide to enroll at Gainesville State after high school, they can receive financial help.

“A guidance counselor at school recommends us to the program,” said Malcolm Johnson, a rising eighth-grader at Russell Middle School in Winder. “Plus, we’re smart and get good grades.”

During the monthlong program, students look forward to field trips to Six Flags and a job shadowing day organized by Junior Achievement. This week, students will follow business leaders in the community and hear their success stories.

“I really like the classes, especially gym,” said Ontreal Harris, a rising eighth-grader at South Hall Middle School. “I want to be a gym instructor or choreographer, so that’s a big help.”

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