Kent Stark accepts local class of 2006

Morgan Day

When Barbara Tscholl was approached last January with an idea to increase first-generation college students in the Stark County area, the plan of action didn’t even have a name.

Now, with about 30 Canton South High School students participating and plans for next year’s program in the works, “Application Action!” is finally sporting a title.

“The program is an effort to reach kids that think college might not be doable and help them realize that it can be,” said Tscholl, a guidance counselor at Canton South.

Application Action! is a partnership between Canton South and Kent State’s Stark campus in which the university accepted the 2006 graduating class as a whole. The university waived the application fee and sent admissions officers to senior English classes where the application was used as a writing exercise.

The Stark Education Partnership received a Best Practice Grant of $23,450 from the Ohio College Access Network to fund the program.

The program was initiated by Stark Dean Betsy Boze, who wanted to change students’ perceptions about college. Upon Boze’s arrival to Ohio a little over a year ago, she heard reasons why Ohio students were not attending college. Students said they were poor or unintelligent, ashamed to borrow money for college or that their parents are doing well without a college degree.

Although Canton South is taking part in the program, Boze said she was inspired by Canton McKinley High School, part of the Canton City School District.

“They had a large thermometer in the hallway that showed what percentage of their students had gotten into college,” she said. “Every time I walked by it, it was sitting at maybe 28 percent or 30 percent, and I wondered why 100 percent of their students hadn’t gotten into college when it was really just a matter of applying and getting your materials in.”

Boze added Ohio has open access through its regional campuses and community colleges, so anyone can attend.

Tscholl said the area’s immediate income is less than $30,000.

“Our kids are just as capable as kids from other districts, but their financial backgrounds are so different,” she said.

The program was offered to all area superintendents, but it was the persistence of Teresa Purses, superintendent of Canton Local Schools, that drew Boze’s attention.

“It was really because of Teresa Purses’ enthusiasm and energy – she followed me out of the room, she called me, she e-mailed me. She was like, ‘Take me! Take me!,'” Boze said, smiling.

The students were also offered a summer course at a reduced price of $150.

The course accompanied a week-long orientation to prepare the students for their first college class. If they received a C or better, they were given a $150 bookstore voucher, making the class practically free whether or not the students decided to attend the campus in the fall.

Freshman Spanish major Alyssa Volpe said she was already considering attending Kent State Stark or the University of Akron when she first learned about the program. She said the program helped ease the stress she was experiencing during her senior year.

“(Application Action!) made things easier,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be doing, but it helped you along.”

Freshman criminal justice major Casandra Buckbee also chose to attend the Stark campus after considering Ohio Northern and Bowling Green State. She said it was nice to have someone relieve the stress of applying to college.

“You can just go (to the Stark campus) for your first year and decide what you want to do after that,” she said.

The 2007 graduating classes of Canton South and the Impact Academy, a division of Canton McKinley, will take part in the program next.

Boze said for some students, it’s not about going to college; it’s about knowing you can go to college.

“In a few years when they have a younger brother or sister coming through, they can always tell their sibling, ‘I got into college. So can you.'”

Contact regional south campuses reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].