Provost Scholars program brings Cleveland students to campus to learn about college, careers

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, high school and middle school students from East Cleveland Schools are given a little taste of college as part of the Provost Scholars Program, with the Guilford House parlor as their temporary classroom.

The program, a partnership between Case Western Reserve University and East Cleveland City Schools, was initiated on Jan. 31, 2013 to familiarize under-resourced students with the possibilities of college and the potential for their future careers.

Since then, a number of students from Heritage Middle School and Shaw High School have come to Thwing Center or Guilford House on the CWRU campus twice each week to meet with faculty and staff mentors, who guide them toward successful futures rooted in maximizing their potential. There are 18 high school students and five middle school students in the program this year.

School of Law Professor and Associate Director of the LL.M Lawyering Skills Program Jonathan Gordon was one of the first mentors to join.

“I am so privileged to be one of the original mentors in the university’s Provost Scholars Program,” he said. “In particular, my third year has been rewarding because I was able to observe the continued development and maturation of Anthony Price, the exceptional young man for whom I have had the pleasure of serving as a mentor.”

The program grew out of conversations between Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing’s Dr. Faye Gary, University Provost and Executive Vice President William “Bud” Baeslack III and Mrs. Myrna Loy Corley, superintendent for East Cleveland City Schools. At the time, Gary was the chair of the minority faculty senate committee and wanted to see the university better engage with its neighbor, East Cleveland.

“We are committed to teaching the students professionalism, business etiquette and the skills to become leaders in their home, school and community,” said Gary. “It’s about making the right decisions and changing attitudes towards learning by teaching them to love and believe in themselves and what they can learn from their books, teachers and mentors.”

Baeslack’s office provides funding and greater visibility for the program, while Gary ensures that the program provides sustained growth for its participants. Each staff member, mentor and benefactor of the program is also an integral part of its success. Without any of these essential components, the program would fail.

“Our goal is ideally to provide these students preparation for college, first and foremost to get them excited about what their potential is,” said Baeslack. “If we can get them to understand and believe in themselves and convey that, by bringing them here and working with them intentionally, then we are succeeding.”

There are almost 20 mentors from all corners of campus, including the School of Law, School of Medicine, the Inamori International Center of Ethics and Excellence, the Department of Physics, the Weatherhead School of Management and The Leonard Gelfand STEM Center.

In addition to mentoring, the program invites other faculty members to lecture on various relevant topics, like college admissions, civil rights and American Civil Liberties Union history, what it’s like to be a Ph.D. student, video game design, environmental justice and yoga. Field trips to places like Playhouse Square, the Great Lakes Science Center and the Federal Reserve Bank have been highlights.

CWRU students also often have a role in the program. The Provost Scholars Program manager is Katrice Williams, a current graduate student at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Sciences who currently pursues a dual master’s degrees in social administration and management of nonprofit organizations.

Over the past year, the Mandel School has used the Provost Scholars Program as a field placement program for its students. This is how Williams got involved.

“I wanted a fulfilling outreach experience to enrich my education by applying it directly,” Williams said. “I was allowed to use the position to fill the field requirement for my degrees, which is an added benefit since I love working with the students.”

Masters of Social Work candidate at MSASS, Imani Scruggs likewise works with the program as a group facilitator.

“I heard about the program through a professor who recommended me to Dr. Gary,” Scruggs said. “I met and interviewed with her and really felt the camaraderie instantly.”

As one of the first to get involved, Gordon is happy to see the program grow while he continues to work with his mentee, Anthony Price.

“I recall one Friday listening to a Cleveland Public Radio broadcast of a City Club Forum and recognizing Anthony’s voice during the Q and A session as he asked the politician-speaker an insightful question about his efforts to encourage the next generation of leaders in Cleveland,” Gordon said. “I admire how Anthony is not afraid to be a leader and is willing to speak up for what he believes is right and just. I am proud to be his mentor, but often I think Anthony is the real mentor because I’m always learning so much from him.”

“Everyone involved with the Provost Scholars Program has been so open-minded and dedicated to mentoring the students, having memorable educational experiences and developing meaningful relationships,” he added. “Perhaps the best part of being a mentor is that I look forward to my meetings and conversations with my friend Anthony. It is joyful to spend time with these young people, and they make me hopeful about the future.”

As the program grows, so do its demands. However, Gary and Baeslack, along with mentors and other benefactors, are confident in its continued success.

“CWRU has a mission as a world-class institution to education,” Gary said. “If we aren’t helping our neighbors and the citizens of our nation, we aren’t taking our jobs as educators seriously. This work is too important.”