Drew’s Summer College benefits students from New York City who will spend two weeks on campus in July.

Drew University’s Summer College, a six-year-old program that introduces inner-city high school students from New York to college life and liberal arts learning, has received a $270,000 Teagle Foundation grant that will sustain the program through 2014.  In addition to offering up a slice of undergraduate life, Summer College—which takes place on the Drew campus over the course of two weeks in July—also gives the 40 participants the tools they need to navigate the college admissions process.

“The point of the program is to bring students from underserved schools to Drew to experience college in a way that is concrete and rich and varied,” said Wendy Kolmar, chair and professor of English.  “It’s also to get them to consider a wider range of college options that includes the liberal arts.  We work to give them more nuanced information to help them in choosing their own school.”

The academic piece of Summer College is designed to introduce students to disciplines that might be unfamiliar to them and to give them a sense of how subjects are taught differently at the college level.  As part of the program, they take sample courses on topics like architecture, archaeology, psychology, environmental studies, linguistics and African American studies.  They also take part in a biology lab and other experiential, hands-on classes.

Information sessions on college admissions and financial aid are built into the students’ time at Drew to give them a preview of those processes before they actually experience them.  University officials from the Career Center and Off-Campus Programs also make presentations to make students aware of job placement and counseling services, and study abroad options.

According to Kolmar, much of the Summer College experience—which continues into the academic year through campus visits, tutoring sessions and informal communication—is facilitated by current Drew students who act as mentors to their younger peers.

“Many mentors come to the program because of an interest in working with urban youth, and they learn and grow from the experience as much as the high school students,” she said.  “It’s an incredible opportunity for leadership development, diversity training, conflict resolution and team work.”

The Teagle Foundation grant will be shared by Drew and the New York City-based Union Settlement Association, a multiservice community development organization that refers local students to Summer College.  Union Settlement plans to put its $135,000 into its college readiness program.

The Teagle Foundation, also based in New York City, provides leadership for liberal education, mobilizing the intellectual and financial resources that are necessary if today’s students are to have access to a challenging and transformative liberal education.  The foundation’s commitment to such education includes its grantmaking to institutions of higher education across the country, its long-established scholarship program for the children of employees of ExxonMobil, and its work helping economically disadvantaged young people gain admission to college and succeed once there.—Michael Bressman