Nearly 80 high school students entered Thorne Auditorium on Northwestern’s Chicago campus on June 12 full of anticipation. They had been selected for the inaugural class of Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools, and with their parents they were attending the kickoff orientation to find out how the program will prepare them for a top college.
The new multi-year Northwestern Academy seeks to prepare select high-ability, lower-income students in Chicago public schools for success at selective colleges. The Academy will provide these students with summer classes, tutoring, mentoring and other services at no cost to them or their families. Northwestern Academy will increase students’ preparedness for college through a multifaceted approach that includes academic enrichment, college counseling and leadership development.
“Northwestern is deeply committed to supporting Chicago Public Schools students and providing opportunities for a world-class education that will prepare these students for college and careers,” says Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. Schapiro defined the importance of Northwestern Academy and shared his own interest in college access and advocacy. The Academy extends Schapiro’s initiatives at Northwestern that include the Good Neighbor, Great University program of scholarships for local low-income students.
The first Academy class, a group of highly motivated rising sophomores, was chosen from applicants across the city. Based on applications, recommendations and other qualifications, 80 students will be selected each year for the Academy, which will eventually grow to more than 200 students.
At the opening orientation event for the Academy, Schapiro welcomed the new Northwestern Academy students and their parents at the Northwestern Law School building. Also on the program were associate professor Ana Aparicio, a cultural anthropologist at Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and assistant professor Virginia Bishop, an assistant professor at Feinberg School of Medicine. Both told of their professional journeys and their academic work.
Professor Larry Hedges, Board of Trustees Professor Statistics and Social Policy, explained to students and parents the research that will enable the Academy to continue refining its strategies for assisting high school students.
"The purpose of the event is to actively foster a sense of connection among students and families to each other and to Northwestern. It is the first of many intentional activities to promote a collaborative atmosphere beyond that of a typical summer program," says Cassandra Geiger, director of Northwestern Academy. "The presence and engagement of prominent leaders, such as President Schapiro, signaled to the students and families the significance of the University’s commitment. The families were inspired by knowing they have high-profile advocates and supporters."
In separate sessions, Geiger and Eric Brown, a SESP doctoral student who is associate program director. introduced students to the Academy’s program, which will begin with multiple learning activities this summer. Each enrolled student is assigned an adviser and begins receiving group and individual programming, tailored to the student's academic and extracurricular schedule. Individualized programs of study will fulfill students’ needs through rigorous learning experiences in science, mathematics, writing and social studies. In addition, students will benefit from cultural experiences and the development of critical thinking, learning strategies and leadership abilities.
Northwestern Academy is offered through the Center for Talent Development at the School of Education and Social Policy, which has more than 30 years of experience in academic enrichment for gifted students. Northwestern University underwrites the Academy program through donations from Northwestern alumni.
Ninth graders in Chicago Public Schools who meet the qualifications may apply for the program in February, and interviews take place in early spring. Northwestern Academy selects students who demonstrate an aptitude for strong long-term academic performance, the motivation and willingness to engage in intensive learning experiences, and a commitment to excellence.