BW Scholars

Ladonna Norris
Director of BW Scholars Program
(440) 826-8519

As a pre-college access program, the primary purpose of the BW Scholars Program is to ensure the scholars' retention and graduation from high school and ultimately the matriculation to higher education. To achieve this goal, the program has a model to equip young African-American males with the confidence, skills and knowledge which allow them to view education as a conduit to their future success. The participants are expected to commit to the program for four years, earn their high school diploma and enroll in a higher education institution ranging from community college to public or private four-year institutions.

The program consists of three major elements:

Academic Enrichment/College Preparation

The BW Scholars Program takes a two-pronged approach to academic enrichment: (1) supplemental work throughout the academic year, and (2) the Summer Academy. Throughout the school year, students participate in weekly study tables, receive tutoring and prepare for standardized tests required by the State of Ohio for graduation and the ACT and/or SAT in Saturday sessions.

The Summer Academy, a series of intensive summer programs that start in the ninth grade and continue through the summer before their first year in college, is the second area for academic enrichment. The Summer Academy takes place on the BW campus and focuses on growth areas such as academics, leadership, social and life skills, and career development. With each subsequent summer, the length and rigor of coursework increases. Students typically enroll in English, mathematics and science courses and may be given the option to select a course in a subject of their choice. They take classes for six hours each day and study for a minimum of two hours each evening. In the third and fourth year of the program, participants may receive college credit for classes they take at BW during the Summer Academy. As participants reach the final two years of high school, significant program time is devoted to touring colleges (both locally and nationally), career exploration, and completing college entrance and financial aid applications.

Leadership and Service

The students benefit from two mentoring programs: (1) the MENtors program draws upon professional African-American men throughout the community to serve as role models and advisors and (2) the BROTHERS program relies upon male African-American BW students to serve as mentors and tutors. Several of the recently graduated BW Scholars now enrolled in postsecondary programs are mentors and tutors for the group. For students raised with several barriers to their success, having a positive mentor has been proven to increase their chances of graduating from high school and avoiding pitfalls.

Leadership development takes place through required attendance at lectures and a student leadership conference. Additionally, all BW Scholars are required to serve 15 hours in volunteer activities within the community by June of each academic year. Past service projects have included mentoring seventh, eighth and ninth grade boys from Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools, passing on the message of staying focused on graduation and thinking ahead to college.

Work and Learning Application

An important tool for building character and a sense of responsibility is involvement in a paid work experience. Following the Summer Academy, students participate in employment for 20 hours per week, for four to five weeks. Engaging in meaningful employment and being held responsible for paid work duties is an effective way to raise self-esteem and strengthen commitment to the program. Students often secure further paid work opportunities from these internships and continue working throughout the school year. BW Scholars also meet weekly at a local community center during July and August for reading, reflection and career exploration activities.