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>  News Releases >   2007 >   July

"Living, breathing, walking testimony": Dartmouth graduates of program for under-resourced high schoolers help current participants

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/12/07 • Rebecca Bailey • (603) 646-3661

As in years past, legions of Dartmouth sophomores will volunteer this summer for the Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) program, which brings about 30 students from under-resourced high schools to Dartmouth for several weeks each summer for college preparation courses and activities.

Damaris Walker '09
Damaris Walker '09
Mark Wilson '09
Mark Wilson '09

Two of those volunteers, however, know firsthand what it's like to be one of those 30 "SEAD scholars." Damaris Walker and Mark Wilson, both of Philadelphia, were both members of the 2002-04 group of SEAD scholars and are among the 75 percent of SEAD graduates who have gone on to college.

"What moves me the most about this opportunity to volunteer is that I am a living, breathing, walking testimony of the potential that lies within these young people," said Walker, who will serve as a mentor for one of the scholars, who are on campus for the last three weeks of July. "It's not simply a matter of ability; rather, it's a matter of surrounding yourself with people who can help you tap into your ability and make it work for you. SEAD helped me to find those people, and I'm excited about being able to give back and make a difference in a young person's life."

"I give the SEAD program complete credit for the fact that I am here at Dartmouth," said Wilson, who served on the SEAD staff last summer and is a general staff assistant this summer. "Without SEAD, I might have gone to college, but it probably would have been for two years at a community college. The SEAD program showed me that four years of college were definitely for me and that Dartmouth was definitely for me."

The SEAD scholars interact with a range of people on the campus, including upper class students, faculty and college staff. The sophomores, however, make up the majority, because of Dartmouth's "Sophomore Summer" schedule. Last summer, approximately 380 sophomores gave time to the program, ranging from a few hours to help prepare and share a meal or to accompany the scholars on an outing, to meeting daily with a scholar as his or her mentor or academic coach. A similar number of sophomores are expected to volunteer this summer.

Sophomore involvement is at the core of SEAD's uniquely symbiotic mission of enriching the lives of both the SEAD students and the volunteers who work with them, said SEAD Director Jay Davis, who is also an instructor and supervisor of secondary education in Dartmouth's Department of Education. "We are thrilled with our graduates like Damaris and Mark who are succeeding in colleges around the country. We are also deeply proud of those sophomore volunteers who go on to make career and lifestyle choices informed by the service learning-and laughing-they have done with our students."

For the SEAD scholars, most of whose parents didn't attend college, the sophomores are an important model of what it's like to be in college, Wilson said. "The sophomores are taking classes, studying, just like the SEAD scholars are. They are a point of contact when it comes to talking about college, what classes are like, how many papers you write, how much time you spend studying."

Walker developed a particularly strong friendship with his third-year mentor, Silas St. James '06, who completed Dartmouth's Teacher Education program after volunteering with SEAD. Whether watching the stars at night, canoeing, or hanging out at the Ben and Jerry's near campus, the New Hampshire-raised St. James was "like my big brother," Walker said. Mentoring "wasn't just something to put on his resume. It really meant something to him."

Sead students
Current SEAD scholar JP Fordjour works with his academic coach, Juliet Coffey '09. Credit: Jay Davis

Founded in 2001 and co-sponsored by the Tucker Foundation and the Department of Education, SEAD offers high school students academic preparedness and personal growth through specially designed courses, year-round mentoring, and extensive interactions with successful college students. The current SEAD students are from Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., Noonan Business Academy in Dorchester, Mass., the Bronx Center for Mathematics and Science in New York, Spartanburg High School in Spartanburg, S.C., and El Cerrito High School, in El Cerrito, Calif. The partner schools select the participants on the basis of family financial data and their own determination of each student's academic promise.

SEAD Scholars spend a total of seven weeks on campus over three summer sessions.  In addition to a rigorous academic schedule, they explore wilderness areas in New Hampshire and Maine, write college essays, prepare for admissions interviews, and live with students and staff from around the country. While on campus, they are also paired with one of the 30 Dartmouth staff and faculty members who volunteer as Summer Advisors.  The scholars return to campus each winter for a five-day reunion weekend co-sponsored by Hanover High School, and Dartmouth undergraduate Winter Interns spend nine weeks in the students' schools.

About 75 percent of SEAD's 78 graduates have gone on to post-secondary schools, both two-year and four-year colleges. About three-fourths of the scholars are students of color, mainly African-American or Latino; and two-thirds are urban and one-third are from rural communities or small cities.

SEAD was one of the models for the Crimson Summer Academy begun at Harvard University in 2003, and was one of the featured programs at a 2006 conference at Princeton University entitled "Opening the Doors and Paving the Way." SEAD is currently developing a "replication model" for institutions interested in developing similar programs.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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