Mentoring program garners White House distinction

Claremont CourierA program at Scripps College has touched the lives of many local high school students who’ve dreamed of a brighter future.

Now the Scripps College Academy (SCA), a free year-round college-readiness program for high-achieving young women in the greater Los Angeles area, has been recognized for its accomplishments.

The Academy received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, considered the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs, particularly those that reach underserved children and youth. The award is bestowed by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and was presented at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama.

A contingent from Scripps College made the trip to Washington DC earlier this month to receive the award at the White House. Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus Newhall and SCA participant Raemi Thomas, a junior at New Millennium Secondary School in Carson, attended the ceremony.

“[Ms. Obama] gave our student a huge hug and whispered into her ear how proud she was of her,” said Kelly Hewitt, Director of the SCA. “What an experience for her.”

SCA helps students who may lack the resources necessary to train themselves for success at top colleges and universities. Through mentorship from Scripps College faculty and staff, participants develop the confidence and skills to be well-prepared college applicants and successful college students.

Established in 2002, the program was promoted by its former director who toured area high schools to talk about its benefits. But the word is out about the program’s effectiveness. Over the past 2 years, applications have jumped by 400 percent.

“I think that shows there’s truly a need out there for this type of program,” Ms. Hewitt said.

During a 2-week summer course, high school students get to experience life on a college campus, living in the dorms, eating in the dining halls and attending lectures.

The program also offers SAT preparation courses, college application courses, finance aid application courses and year-round tutoring for girls in 7th to 12th grade. Volunteers also organize “college clubs” at local middle schools to get younger students thinking about higher education at an early age. Many program participants come from low-income families and all programs
and courses are free.

“We understand that costs can sometimes be a barrier to these types of programs,” Ms. Hewitt said. “But we believe these opportunities should be available to everyone, regardless of resources. So everything is free. We even provide transportation.”

SCA Scholars are routinely admitted to top colleges and universities throughout the country. One hundred percent of the class of 2010 was admitted to 4-year institutions, including Scripps College, Pomona College, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, UCLA and Occidental College. Many of the participants are the first in their families to attend college.

The program was chosen from a pool of more than 400 nominations and 50 finalists to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. SCA was the youngest program to receive the award this year, Ms. Hewitt said.

Yyanne Dominguez, of Montclair, became involved in the program as a high school student. Now she is a sophomore at Scripps College and volunteers in the tutoring program for current SCA participants. “It gave me an opportunity to go on a college campus and connect with students and professors,” Ms. Dominguez said. “I’m a first generation student and couldn’t ask my parents for help in the application process. The program helped me through that and I learned about scholarships and financial aid so that I could attend a private school like Scripps.”