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Bucknell Community College Scholars helps to transition community college students to some of the country's best colleges and universities, including Bucknell.

Posted July 10, 2008

LEWISBURG, Pa. – When Elizabeth Schorn's mother graduated from Temple University at the age of 50 with a business degree, her 28-year-old daughter decided it wasn’t too late to pursue her own degree. She chose the path of a Bucknell Community College Scholar at Bucknell University.

One class away from an associate's degree in management from Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), Schorn is one of 29 Pennsylvania and Maryland community college students attending a special summer session through July 18 at Bucknell as part of the program. 

The program, funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and Bucknell, seeks out and supports highly motivated, high-achieving, low- to middle-income community college students who plan to transfer on two-year scholarships to some of the country's best colleges and universities, including Bucknell. The summer program at Bucknell helps prepare them for the transition.

Schorn will apply to Bucknell later this year as a transfer student and plans to major in accounting and minor in Spanish. A self-employed massage therapist who is taking two psychology courses this summer, she said, "I'm very interested in social well-being. I also do a lot of volunteering in the community so I'd like to find a need and build a sustainable business around that need."

One of Schorn's volunteer activities is with Urban Blazers, a program that takes inner-city children from ages 8 to 18 out of the city for mountain biking, skiing, camping and whitewater rafting. "For many of these children, it's the first time they've left the city."

The same might be said for Schorn, who hails from Abington, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her first journey to Bucknell came in February on a bus visit with about 40 fellow aspiring Bucknell Community College Scholars from MCCC and the Community College of Philadelphia.

"There was a buzz on the way back; we knew in our hearts that Bucknell was the place for us," she said.

Change of scenery
After a few weeks in central Pennsylvania, Schorn says she's come to like the variety of rural activities, which have included rock-climbing and volunteering at a local farm.

Two of Schorn's classmates have welcomed the change. Marquita Buchanan is a liberal arts major from Philadelphia who attends the Community College of Philadelphia. "The best thing about my summer is the peace," she said. "I've had a writer's block for the last six, seven months, but since I've been here, I've been writing non-stop."

Jillian Rolen is majoring in education at Lehigh Carbon Community College. Rolen, who lives in Schnecksville, Pa., with her grandparents, grew up in Mendocino, Calif., and was homeless for 12 years. She also likes "the huge trees and the bright blue sky and the squirrels" and considers the faculty, staff and fellow students part of her extended family.

Demographic shift
The Bucknell Community College Scholars program addresses a demographic shift that is resulting in significant growth in community college enrollment, said Kurt Thiede, vice president for enrollment management at Bucknell.

"The Bucknell educational experience for all students is enriched by having a learning community that better reflects these changes in the nation and in the world," Thiede said. "Bringing in students with different backgrounds promotes a diverse learning experience for all of our students."

Bucknell was one of eight highly selective colleges and universities around the country selected by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation two years ago following a competitive review to participate in the Community College Transfer Initiative. Students in the Bucknell program are recruited from five partner community colleges: Community College of Philadelphia, Garrett College (Md.), Harrisburg Area Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and Montgomery County Community College near Philadelphia.

In addition to demonstrating leadership skills and meeting income requirements, the students must have a grade-point average of about 3.5 and plan to earn an associates degree before transferring. They need to return to their home schools this fall to achieve that goal. All of the students in Bucknell's summer program receive full scholarships, including tuition, room and board during the summer session.

Summer transition
The six-week summer session, offered only by Bucknell, helps to prepare the students for the transition to a new academic and residential life experience, said Mark Davies, director of the BCCS program and assistant vice president for enrollment management. The students take two courses in statistics, psychology, or engineering and also attend one-day courses each week designed to enhance academic skills such as writing, library research and technology use.

The classes are team-taught by Bucknell and partner community college faculty. In addition, the students are teamed up with student and faculty mentors who help orient them to life at Bucknell, including cultural, social, and recreational experiences. The mentors continue to guide the scholars through the transfer process and support them throughout their two years at Bucknell.

"Many of these students are working, have family issues and have not been away from their communities for any extended period of time," Davies said. "It's a very different experience. We try to build a strong network of support."

Growing program
As part of its strategic plan for enrollment, Bucknell plans to build on the program far beyond the four-year funding commitment from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Thiede said.

 "The plan is to create an infrastructure and a campus culture that will allow us to enroll many more community college transfers each year beyond the life of the grant," he said.

"With the summer of 2007 being our first experience, we enjoyed great enthusiasm and interest from those participants," Thiede added. "In fact, 23 of the 30 who were part of the program will be full-time transfer students in the fall of 2008. We are hopeful that Elizabeth and others will follow a similar path to continue their education at Bucknell in the near future."

Contact: Division of Communications