LONG ISLAND, NY – Nineteen low-income high school students from New York City are spending this week studying environmental science at a state university campus in Syracuse.
The students are part of the Scholars program at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, or SEO. The free, highly competitive eight-year program gives more than 100 students a year – many of them children of immigrants – extra academic help from ninth grade through college.
One goal of the program, said Emil Kim, senior program manager for SEO Scholars, is to help inner-city students become environmentally conscious.
“We think the best way to really do that is have them interact directly with nature,” he said, “and to really kind of get them out of the ‘concrete jungle’ and into the woods.”
There’s also a five-week summer academic program and, during the school year, extra classes on Saturdays as well. Started in 1963, SEO boasts a 95 percent college graduation rate for its participants.
Brandon Murphy, technology/projects coordinator at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, said the students attending the program in Syracuse are not only exploring nature but also are learning about potential careers.
“They’re going to be doing a lot of hands-on, field-based environmental science and engineering activities,” he said, “a lot of the stuff that our students would do in their field classes.”
Murphy described the students, who will all be high-school juniors this fall, as highly motivated.
There’s a smaller SEO Scholars program in San Francisco, and Kim said the New York program, which generally has taken about 125 students a year, is now expanding.
“Last fall, we had over 1,000 applications,” he said, “out of which we accepted 264 total scholars from the class of 2018.”
After high school, the Scholars program continues working with the students through college. There are now SEO Scholars at 132 colleges and universities across 26 states.
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