Scholar program takes city's brightest

By ROSS LINKER | September 19, 2007

Many Baltimore students once considered an education at Johns Hopkins University to be beyond reach. Aware of this notion, Johns Hopkins University founded the Baltimore scholars in 2004.

This relatively new award program, spearheaded by professor of political science Michael Crenson, a graduate of the Baltimore City school system and alumnus of Hopkins, officially began with the class of 2009. The program was created in order to allow students from Baltimore City public schools to experience a first-rate education within their home city. "The Baltimore Scholars Program is one more step the University can take to support our city and especially our public schools," University president William Brody said in a 2004 press release.

The program underwrites the cost of tuition to selected individuals applying to Hopkins from Baltimore public schools. The program is extended to all of the University's undergraduate schools (the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering and the Peabody Conservatory) along with the School of Nursing, if a scholar decides to transfer in his or her junior year. As of the 2007-08 academic year, the scholarship will amount to $35,900 for the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, $31,400 for the Peabody Conservatory and $29,280 for the School of Nursing.

Along with receiving full scholarships, the scholars meet to discuss future goals and attend a variety of events in which they can interact with one another and talk about their experiences at the University. In addition to these benefits, the program is currently trying to organize visits to local leaders so that the scholars may have local role models during their years at Hopkins.

"What we'd like to do is provide Baltimore home-grown leaders," Crenson said. "[Baltimore] has reached a tipping point where things are starting to look up." Indeed, the program has been successful in its brief existence. The scholars have a "pretty good" retention rate and maintain an active part in the school, the community and their studies. "It's one of the best, if not the best, opportunity I've had in my life," sophomore Baltimore Scholar Molly Broache said.

The students applying to be Baltimore Scholars primarily come from one of four schools: Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Western High, Baltimore School for the Arts and Paul Laurence Dunbar High. This trend can be explained by the exclusivity of these schools. Their higher standards are transferred to the students, making them more appealing candidates during the college application process. For example, compare the 100 percent graduation rate from Baltimore School for the Arts to the city's average (74 percent), or Baltimore Polytechnic Institute's rate of students who go on to a four-year college (75.9 percent) to the city's average (44.5 percent), and these schools begin to look drastically from the city's norm. "We're trying to change this pattern," Prof. Crenson said. "We're trying to spread the program around." According to Prof. Crenson, the program is now looking to more schools outside these four in order to give more Baltimore students a shot at this opportunity.

Candidates need to meet certain criteria to become Baltimore Scholars. One criterion for eligibility is residency of both the student and his or her family in Baltimore City for at least the duration of the student's high school career. Also the student must attend and graduate from a Baltimore City public school. Furthermore these students must maintain certain academic standards - the same as those of any other undergraduate - in order for the scholarship to continue.

Hopefuls need only apply to one of the undergraduate schools at the University to be considered for the scholarship. According to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, those qualified to be Baltimore Scholars are individuals who both meet the aforementioned credentials and are "well-prepared for college, deeply interested in learning and contribute to their schools and communities."

"The students have to get in under the same standards [as any undergraduate]," Crenson said.

Scholars are additionally capable of obtaining added financial assistance from both outside scholarships and the University itself to cover the cost of housing and other college expenses.

In previous years the number of Baltimore public school students admitted to Hopkins had been staggeringly low. The establishment of the Baltimore Scholars program has produced a significant rise in the number of students applying for and accepted into the University.

It seems that most of the scholars would like to live and work in Baltimore after graduation. Scholar Molly Broache currently works in a Baltimore kidney disease study and is striving to get into Hopkins Medical School. "Ultimately I want to live in Baltimore," Broache said.

According to Crenson, the program has been much more successful than anticipated. The year after the program was initiated, the number of students from Baltimore city schools applying to the University quintupled, vastly exceeding the University's expectations. Hopkins currently has 60 Baltimore Scholars enrolled with a total of 80 being expected for the next academic year.

How much each scholar receives depends upon the incoming class of each academic year. The program's funds come from both the University and outside scholarships aimed at Baltimore's youth. Two monetary providers chosen for participation in this program are the well-known Goldseker Foundation and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

The scholars are taking an active role in spreading the program by participating in the Middle Grades Partnership, a program in which the scholars visit Baltimore middle schools to discuss the opportunities available at Hopkins.

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