New program offers jump start for freshmen

Eboni Pringle, assistant director of student success, meets with members of the President’s Academy after a day of community service. The students are getting a head start on their college careers this summer. Christina Stavale | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Heather Kaley never took any post-secondary classes during high school, but she’s getting her initiation into college life this summer.

“This is kind of like my jump start,” the freshman English major said.

Kaley is one of 11 students in the President’s Summer Academy, a five-week program designed for high-performing high school students starting their careers at the university.

The Academy, which is in its first year, allows students to take six credit hours of classes during the summer months before their freshman year at Kent State.

Participating students take a leadership course and an LER class of their choice. They also participate in a research project.

The President’s Office is covering tuition costs for the 11 students, said Eboni Pringle, associate director of the Student Success Program and First Year Experience.

Additional costs depend on whether the students choose to live on campus, she said.

“Housing did provide a discount, so the students are only charged $75 a week,” Pringle said.

President Lester Lefton’s goal for the program is to hang on to Kent State’s best and brightest.

“This is an attempt to recruit and retain the very best students that we possibly can,” he said.

But for the students, the summer program is about making more than academic connections.

Freshman Kelli Cwiklinski said she enjoyed the campus tours offered, as well as the free tuition.

“It was nice to come early and familiarize ourselves with campus,” the hospitality management major said.

Erica Huntsman, freshman zoology major, said the program is a good opportunity to get free credit hours, but she also appreciates the chance to get to know the campus.

“It’s getting me used to the environment and campus, and knowing where everything is,” she said.

Freshman and early education major Jessica Loar agreed, saying she was surprised how quickly she learned her way around campus.

“I was surprised that I already know my way around after a week,” Loar said. “I thought it was going to take forever.”

Pringle said one of the university’s top priorities for the program is to keep the high-achieving students challenged.

“Students who have that potential (and) have done very well in high school are looking for some opportunities to (be) engaged in their academic studies,” she said.

Pringle added that not all high-performing students go through the Honors College, where students are getting those engaging experiences. Students who are not participating in the honors program may not necessarily get that connected, she said.

Aside from getting to know the campus, the students said they are also getting to know people.

“I wanted to make sure I knew people before I was thrown into the craziness,” Alena Miller said. “I’m hoping the people I meet here will stay with me throughout all four years.”

Miller, an architecture major, said she also was glad for the chance to move in early.

“I’m glad I don’t have to mess with move-in day,” she said.

Claire Markwardt, also an architecture major, said she appreciated getting to meet faculty members in her concentration area.

“It was nice to work with a professor from architecture.”

Next year, President Lefton said he hopes to start working on the program sooner.

“This year, we started late,” he said. “We started to invite kids after January or February. Next year, we’re going to start in November and make it part of our recruiting effort.”

By beginning sooner, he hopes to increase the size to 50 students.

“We intend to do it on a go-forward basis and increase the size,” he said.

The students were selected based on high school achievements, such as GPA and community service. They were sent pamphlets in the mail asking them to apply. Students then had to submit an application, including letters of recommendation and essays.

For Keara Henry, the experience has been different because she is a commuter student.

“If you’re not living on campus, it’s harder to learn the buildings,” the early childhood education listed as an international relations major said.

Chester Palen-Michel, an international relations major listed as a Spanish major, is also a commuter student, and said it was nice getting to know professors.

“All of the faculty has been really helpful and friendly,” the freshman said.

Miller agreed.

“It makes you wonder if you would have ever had that relationship with them if you had been one of 100 students,” she said. “Would you have ever gotten to know them?”

Contact principal reporters Ben Wolford at [email protected] and Maria Nann [email protected].