Kean University has launched Kean Scholar Academy, a dual-enrollment initiative that will prepare selected high school students for college by bringing them on campus to earn college credits and take part in mentorships, internships and other college experiences starting in ninth grade.
Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D., a former New Jersey education commissioner, school superintendent and principal, created the program, which begins this summer.
“The Kean Scholar Academy offers unique opportunities for students who may not otherwise have them,” Repollet said. “That’s what Kean is all about — offering a world-class education and helping students to grow and develop in ways they often don’t expect. This will accelerate the pace of their education. We truly want to give our scholars the college experience that no other dual-enrollment program offers.”
Students from at least 10 school districts in Union, Essex, Middlesex and Passaic counties will be chosen for the program by their districts, based on criteria such as grades, school attendance, involvement and commitment to excel. The first group of 60-120 Academy students will arrive this summer for a four-week orientation on Kean’s Union and Skylands campuses, and virtually.
Kean’s president proposed the idea at a roundtable meeting with K-12 school leaders, and University officials have worked to build the Academy program.
“This has stirred a lot of excitement,” said Jason Lester, special assistant to the president and the executive director of Kean Scholar Academy. “It’s being well-received by all the parents we’ve been talking to in these communities.”
School districts selected so far to take part are Union, Hillside, Newark, Passaic, South Orange-Maplewood, Plainfield, Orange, East Orange, Carteret and Roselle.
The students’ home school districts will pay their tuition, Lester said, using grants and federal funding earmarked for programs to accelerate student success. Kean will provide technology, some transportation and other support.
Roselle School Superintendent Nathan Fisher, Ed.D., said his district is excited about the opportunity for students to take part.
“It is no secret that the road to higher education in minority communities is difficult, so this program is an incredible opportunity for our qualified students who are looking to continue their education after high school,” he said.
“At the Roselle Public School district, we are always looking for new ways to bring opportunities to our students. This program is not just about students receiving college credits while still in high school; it’s also about being ready for college and being ready for success in the future,” Fisher said. “Parents, students and the entire school community are excited about this partnership with Kean University. It’s a great chance for our scholars to get ahead.”
Students will be enrolled in the Kean Scholar Academy for all four years of high school. In ninth and tenth grade, they will take college courses in English, math and prerequisite subjects with other Academy students, Lester said. In their last two years, they will take classes in their major alongside other Kean students. At the same time, they will take high school classes.
The Academy will provide internships, mentoring, social-emotional learning activities and counseling. Students will also have the opportunity to work with municipal and business community members to research, investigate and provide solutions to issues in their communities.
Each student will have an individualized education plan based on their academic interests. By high school graduation, they may earn up to 12-15 college credits in their selected major. Students will also get a taste of life on a college campus.
“If we have a football game, or there is a play on campus, Academy students will be there. We want to immerse them in the college experience,” Lester said. “This will be a new way of life for these young people and their families.”
Academy students will start on campus once per week for class, and attend a second session through synchronous in-person and virtual learning. They will also have twice-monthly team-building activities on Saturdays.
University officials stressed that student support and mentoring is a major component of the program.
As for Academy students, Kean officials hope they will ultimately choose to continue at Kean and complete their degrees at the University.
“I’m looking not only for a 100 percent graduation rate from high school, I want 100 percent graduation rate when they come to Kean University,” Lester said. “Once they’re Kean Scholar Academy members, they’re members for life.”