By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
An interesting thing happened when the 2009 Pre-Freshman Summer Program (PSP) was about to end – some of the high school students decided they wanted to remain at Morehouse.
“I’ve never had that testimony,” said Anne Watts, associate vice president of Academic Affairs. “They were trying to figure out a way they could be early admits at Morehouse or a way they could take courses here, as well as take courses (at their high schools). That was very affirming.”
It is just one example of the impact the Academy’s 16 programs had on the approximately 1,200 students who took part this summer. Students as young as 10 in the National Youth Sports Program shot hoops while learning about physical fitness; high school students in Project GRAD learned the importance of earning a high school diploma and current students of the College lived on campus while they did research around town.
“It was a very successful summer,” said Watts, the Academy’s director. “They were truly getting the collegiate experience.”
Three of the Academy’s programs focused on the opportunity for young men to be introduced to the life of a college student – Project Identity, the Coca-Cola Pre-College Leadership Program and the PSP Program.
Project Identity director Danny Bellinger literally got a lift from the 50 boys who took part in the program this summer. In a trust exercise, Bellinger succumbed to the boys who had to come up with a plan to physically lift and hold him in the air.
It was just one of the activities that challenged the boys from diverse backgrounds to think critically and as a team.
“They get an opportunity to learn how to complete tasks as a team and deal with obstacles, difficulties and challenges, while learning how to lean on each other to figure it out,” Bellinger said.
Along with tackling challenging courses in everything from pre-calculus to creative writing, the rising high school juniors and seniors from around the country spent four weeks on campus finding exactly what it meant to become a college student and a responsible man.
Said Salahudeen Abdul-Malik, a junior at Atlanta’s W.D. Mohammed High School: “The program gave me a feeling of brotherhood and also the gratification of knowing that me and my brothers spent time at college in order to achieve something better in life.”
Coca-Cola Pre-College Leadership Program
High school senior Deandre Woods was one of 30 students making masks of each other’s faces and then destroying them to learn about the parallels of leadership, ethics and recognition.
“Often the mask that we wear is…used to hide deep feelings of frustration, anger and despair and a longing for a better and truer self,” explained Dr. Walter Fluker, executive director of the Leadership Center.
It made things clear for Woods.
“When I decided to demolish my mask, my life was truly changed,” he said. “At that moment, I felt a connection with every one of my brothers and I decided to become a leader.”
It was one of the lessons learned during an intense week of activities designed to instill the principles of ethical leadership in the young men from around the country. Participants were introduced to traits, skills and behaviors necessary for effective 21st century leadership.
Pre-Freshman Summer Program
The 68 wide-eyed young men, most of them fresh from high school graduation and preparing for their first year of college during the heat of summer, arrived like any other new student – overwhelmed and a bit intimidated.
They were going to college classes, doing college work, required to study four hours daily and jumping into the daily rigors of the life of a college student.
But three weeks into the eight-week program, Alvin Darden ’72, dean of the Freshman Class and director of Pre-Freshman Summer Program, said there was a transformation.
“Students came to me and said, ‘Dean, this is the first time I felt like a real student,’” he said. “At first they were resistant. Of course they would be resistant because they had not had that kind of requirement to study for a long period of time. When it got to be okay to them, they saw the fruits of their labor. They saw how they were performing in class.”
PSP students got a jump on their fellow freshmen in getting acclimated to the College. Morehouse professors taught them first year math, history and sociology courses for which college credit is granted if they earned grades of “B” or above.
Six participants were rising high school seniors. They were the ones who wanted to find a way to stay at Morehouse to start taking college courses while somehow finishing high school away from home.
“They were taking, and in some cases, succeeding, and in some instances, leading classes that are first-year college courses,” Darden said. “They were saying, ‘Why go back? I’m already in college and I’ve demonstrated what I can do.’”