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SEAD takes root

The Summer Enrichment Program at Dartmouth (SEAD) will reach a milestone this fall when two of its alumni, Damaris Walker and Mark Wilson, both from Philadelphia, become students again - this time as members of Dartmouth's class of 2009.

SEAD staff member Bart van Veghel, and SEAD students

SEAD staff member Bart van Veghel, second from left, and SEAD students, left to right, Scott Rosetta, Shatavia Wynn, Amanda Johnson and Krystal Laundry rehearse for a performance demonstrating an individual's capacity to improve his or her community or environment. (Photo by Charles Rountree '05)

Since 2001, SEAD, a joint project of the Tucker Foundation and Dartmouth's Department of Education, has welcomed promising students from under-resourced, urban and rural high schools to the College. On campus, the students participate in a program that strives to provide the academic and experiential programs that are too often not readily available at their home schools. SEAD students visit Dartmouth for three consecutive summers, for two weeks at a time. They also receive year-round mentoring and have extensive interactions with successful college students. The goal is for them to sharpen their focus on their studies and gain the skills they need to pursue a successful college education.

"SEAD reminded me of my ultimate goal-to graduate high school and go on to college," said Walker. His decision to go to Dartmouth came because "I couldn't see myself going anywhere else. I was head over heels about the campus, the faculty I came in contact with during the SEAD program and the students, who were genuinely interested in people and making a difference in society."

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

Wilson's own Dartmouth aspirations came early. SEAD Director Jay Davis '90 said that he vividly remembers talking to Wilson about college. "He was really committed to Dartmouth, so we talked a lot about what he would need to do to make it happen."

Wilson agreed that because of SEAD, "[I knew] what I needed to do if I wanted to go to college. I started working harder and getting involved in anything that interested me. I started holding myself to an admission officer's standard of achievement. B's were no longer an acceptable grade. And a C was just the same as a failure. SEAD made me who I am today."

Davis stressed that even though SEAD helps students to better succeed academically, the program's ultimate goal is not to groom them to apply to Dartmouth. "We want kids to be excited about education and going on to college. When they're ready to make a decision about a school, we want them to choose the college that's the best fit for them. The goal of SEAD is to expand the students' perception of what is possible in their lives and to enable them to reach their goals. It's great that these two students chose Dartmouth and worked hard to make that dream a reality."

According to Davis, both Walker and Wilson have expressed interest in becoming future SEAD volunteers. "They are going to be great mentors," he said. "Letting them share their experiences with future classes fits the complementary mission of SEAD: to give Dartmouth students and the Dartmouth community an opportunity to learn and laugh with others who come from such distinctive, often challenging, backgrounds. Not only will they be able to share their unique perspective as SEAD graduates, I hope they will experience the same inspiring and satisfied feelings our other volunteers take away from the program."

SEAD has become a popular service learning program for Dartmouth students who are on campus for their sophomore summer. In 2004, over 300 Dartmouth sophomores were involved with SEAD in some capacity. Twenty-nine Dartmouth student organizations donated meals and their time to interact with SEAD students to give them a better picture of what college life is like. SEAD has received additional support this year from the Tuck School, which offered its cafeteria as a place for SEAD students to have breakfast. The Thayer School again opened up classroom space in its building for SEAD programs.

Students involved in this year's SEAD hail from Enfield, N.H., Boston, Mass., Albany, N.Y., Spartanburg, S.C., and Anadarko, Okla. Their summer curriculum balances environmental science (the individual's effect on the environment) and the humanities (the environment's effect on the individual). Students have already taken an overnight trip to the Isles of Shoals Marine Research Facility, where they participated in hands-on research. SEAD has also been involved in the Upper Valley community. Students participated in the 24th Annual Prouty Bike Ride & Fitness Walk on July 9, raising $4,000 for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

By JOEL AALBERTS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08