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Campus News

Environmental Leadership Center to Launch Experiential Summer Residency Program for Local High School Students

by Christian Diaz, News Editor

The Environmental Leadership Center, or ELC, is currently developing a pilot summer youth program for local prospective students that is to be launched in the summer of 2012.

The program will function as a condensed version of the Warren Wilson experience, submerging 25 high school students in a three-week curriculum that fuses academics, work, and service. The program will revolve around the issue of sustainability, which will be approached through multidisciplinary fields such as ecology and writing.

The target demographic is composed of rising sophomores and juniors who are academically talented but who are at risk of not pursuing undergraduate studies.

The Summer Youth Initiative for Sustainability will be many things: an outreach program that will imbed environmental awareness into community members, a support for college-bound students who are uncertain of the application and financing process, and a recruitment tool for the college itself.

“We don’t want to overwhelm them, but we want them to walk away knowing what the institution is about and hopefully excite them to the point that they say ‘That’s where I want to go,’” said ELC’s Director of Community Outreach Phil Gibson.

The initiative is the latest evolution in programming for Warren Wilson. The science buildings, which are unused throughout the summer, will have a new purpose, as will some faculty, staff, and students.

As the program is structured now, the Summer Youth Initiative for Sustainability will employ seven Warren Wilson students in paid internships. These students are to represent a mix of outdoor leadership, science, and creative writing majors and will work as mentors. Furthermore, the development of the curriculum itself will be integrated into the college’s Program Planning and Design course next term. The goal is to complete the curriculum by the end of the current semester.

Furthermore, participants will be matched with Warren Wilson alumni so that a relationship with the college is maintained throughout their college application process and so that prospectives have an extra resource available to them.

Following a year of research conducted by Gibson into what high school students are wanting of academic institutions, the board decided that the college would pursue an experiential summer residency program which would bring 25 local youth to campus where they would partake in classes during the day, educational leisure in the evenings, and service on the weekends.

John Brock, Interim Director of the ELC, and Gibson are writing proposals hoping to gather funds necessary to make the youth initiative affordable, possibly free. The ELC has approached Asheville High School, Charles D. Owen High School, and La Capilla de Santa Maria, an episcopal church that serves a mostly Hispanic immigrant community in Hendersonville to recruit college-bound students.

Although the program is not intended to serve as outreach for students of color, it happens that Asheville High School’s Acceleration Via Individual Determination (AVID) program aimed at assisting college-bound students acquire the necessary skills to succeed after graduation has a large body of self-selected members who are black. This program is expected be a main source of applicants.

Keeping the schools strategic focus in mind, it is hoped that the Summer Youth Initiative for Sustainability will help attract students of color, thus increasing campus diversity. Most importantly, however, the outreach is geared towards courting local students who are statistically less likely to drop out or transfer from Wilson. Students who live within a 500-mile radius around Swannanoa are less likely to leave according to recent inquiries.

Like most institutions, the college is currently in a money crunch, thus Gibson hopes that high school students will apply from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. Students should be able to afford an education at Warren Wilson; however, it is presumed that scholarship monies will be available to those students who are underprivileged and cannot pay tuition.

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