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First Source Helps Choose Young Scholars

Young Scholars Selection CommitteeWe’ve written about the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program (YSLPP) before, and our new entry takes you behind the scenes. This multi-year collaborative project between Utica College and the Utica City School District (UCSD) is designed to motivate talented students to stay in school, earn a New York State Regents Diploma, and pursue post-secondary education.

Each year, Young Scholars serves approximately 350 students from grades 7 through 12. UCSD teachers nominate students in sixth grade—those who possess potential for success in secondary and post-secondary school, but who may not achieve their full potential due to social and economic factors—and the finalists are selected by a panel of professionals from the area.

Chosen students receive mentoring, counseling by social workers, a summer program prepping them for the following school year, college and career exploration, community service, and enrichment activities.

This year, Pam Way, our Community Relations Specialist, was on the selection committee, a group charged with the difficult task of narrowing 160 candidates down to 60 students. Once a year, this group meets to review the nominated students, and select those who will go on in the program.

“I was honored to have been asked to join the Young Scholars selection committee, and take part in the process of selecting the newest cohort of Young Scholars students,” Pam said. “There were up to 30 educators and community leaders present on selection day, and I was paired with several educators who were familiar with the process.”

Each set of 3 committee members received 15 student files containing students’ last 3 years of grades, attendance records, disciplinary records, teachers’ nominations, personal essays, student interviews, and parent/guardian questionnaires.

“I felt the moisture in my eyes gather as I read their personal appeals for help,” Pam relates. “It was very difficult to choose one deserving child over another. You can change one child’s future, and at the same time, severely disappoint another.

“It was amazing to see how these sixth grade students really knew what the Young Scholars program was all about! Their essays described how being selected would shape them as students and individuals, and give them a greater balance of academic, personal, and social growth. There are many factors to consider. To say the decisions were difficult is an understatement.”

The program has proven quite successful. Program graduates have a 93% graduation rate, 88% with regents or advanced regents diplomas, and since 2005, 86% of them have enrolled in college. A number of YSLPP students have served as summer interns in the local community, and the program’s partnership with Workforce Development has provided hundreds of its students with summer jobs.

We are very excited to have partnered with Utica College’s Young Scholars Program, and feel that their goals align very well with our community mission. We are already working to expand our partnership to help fulfill the dreams of more of our youth here in the Mohawk Valley, with job shadowing and internships for Young Scholars interested in banking and/or financing, donations of tools to teach Financial Literacy in their summer program, and plans to team up with Young Scholars this fall for community giveback for the Stevens-Swan Humane Society.

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