9/14/2011 Chris Karlesky ’01

F&M Partners with KIPP to Immerse Students

Inside a seminar room in F&M’s new College House, 23 high-school students from around the country gaze at a projector screen. The students’ instructor, Associate Dean and House Prefect Suzanna Richter, asks them to analyze what they see.

“If this were a PowerPoint slide, what would be wrong with it?” Richter asks.

“It has too many words, too much information,” one student says quickly.

  • KIPP scholars Adalia Martinez (seated at right) and Chabela Ramirez (seated at left) receive feedback on their posters from their instructor, Associate Dean and House Prefect Suzanna Richter. KIPP scholars Adalia Martinez (seated at right) and Chabela Ramirez (seated at left) receive feedback on their posters from their instructor, Associate Dean and House Prefect Suzanna Richter.


The screen displays an image of a typical college research poster—and now the students have a chance to design their own. Richter takes the students to a computer lab, where they create posters on topics relating to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

The rising seniors are part of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), a national network of 108 free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools aiming to prepare students in underserved communities for success in college and life.

The KIPP scholars arrived at F&M on July 3 for a three- week, pre-college immersion program designed around three pillars: academic development, personal development and college preparation. They hailed from Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The College’s KIPP summer program took shape in January 2011, when President Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D., brought Dean of the College Kent Trachte and other leaders from F&M and Georgetown University to meet KIPP co-founder David Levin. F&M launched the program with help from Peter Croncota, director of operations, KIPP Infinity; Jane Martinez Dowling, executive director of NYC KIPP to College; and Melissa Reyes, director of college counseling of NYC KIPP to College.

F&M and Georgetown were the only institutions in the country that offered KIPP college immersion programs this summer.

“This program gives high-achieving students from around the country a chance to experience the liberal arts environment, meet great college professors and students, set big goals and envision their futures,” Porterfield says. “We’re partnering with KIPP to empower students to continue a trajectory of success through college.”

The summer program offered workshops on admission and financial aid to help students understand the college application process; many of the KIPP scholars plan to apply to F&M over the next year. “The students are experiencing college-level courses while learning the skills necessary to get into college,” Trachte says.

The students took courses taught by Sarah Dawson, director of the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment; Judith Mueller, professor of English; and Richter. They also participated in a seminar led by D. Alfred Owens ’72 and a book discussion led by Porterfield. In addition, the students met F&M alumni—including Aaron Bass ’01, Modia Butler ’95 and Amy Rose Francek ’97—during career workshops.

Shawn Jenkins ’10, special assistant to the Dean of the College for strategic projects, spearheaded the organization of the program at F&M. Jenkins worked closely with student facilitators Eloisa Almaraz ’11, Jessica Dunbar ’13, Brian Rivera ’13 and Evan Towt’11 to manage the logistics of the three-week program.

“Many of these students are experiencing life on a college campus far from home for the first time,” Jenkins says. “Now they realize they have the capacity to go away to college. This program is broadening their horizons. And the broader philosophy was to expose them to the liberal arts.”
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