A group of Genoa parents is stepping up a year-end recognition program in hopes of shining a brighter light on academic prowess.
A partnership between the Genoa Academic Committee and University of Toledo officials lands the top 20 students from freshmen to senior classes at a recognition dinner at the university the evening of May 20.
Tables will be decked out with linen clothes, fine china and centerpieces originating from Penta Career Center. “It really will be something to see,” said GAC President Kellie Szymanski. The meal is complimentary for the students. Up to four guests can attend per student for a fee.
After receiving school district awards, the students and their parents or companions will stroll across the campus to hear the evening’s speakers Dr. Clint Longenecker, professor of management at UT’s College of Business and Innovation, and Dr. Lakeesha Ransom, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College.
Named to honor the former newspaper editor who established The University of Toledo, the Jesup Scott Honors College was founded in 1963.
Relaunched in 2013, the college is highly selective and distinguishes itself from other honors colleges with a unique blend of admission requirements that not only take into account academic performance, but also activities that demonstrate a high level of motivation and achievement, according to the college website.
The event feeds into the mission of the fledging GAC, which aims to put academics on the radar of students. GAC has spent the first couple of years since its inception formulating a collage of incentive programs that’ll challenge kids to focus on good grades by providing a twist of fun.
Some of those programs include ice cream bars celebrating the end of grading periods and an honors breakfast. About 211 students attended the first breakfast last fall, according to Genoa High School Principal Cari Buehler.
But the opportunity to work with UT puts the goal in real perspective, Szymanski said.
“Before I left, that was my goal, to have some incentive programs established that reached all the way down to the freshmen,” she said. Syzmanski’s last child wraps up his junior year this spring and she’ll begin her final year of service in the 2014-15 school year.
She’s coordinated the event with Cam Cruickshank, UT’s vice president for enrollment management online education. Cruickshank has a son who is a high school junior.
“With a son who’s a junior, Cam knows the importance of acclimating kids to colleges sooner,” Szymanski said.
Dinners such as this give freshmen and sophomores one of their first opportunities to experience a slice of university life not so far from home, Szymanski added.
Cruickshank agrees. Colleges across the nation are vying for the talented academic students as they face declining enrollments spurred by rising college costs and a still sluggish economy.
This pilot program with Genoa High School aims to put top honor students in touch with college life.
“Some of these kids are first generation college bound students. Some of them and their parents have never been on a college campus,” the administrator explained.
The honors banquet was also another way to extend UT’s partnerships into the community with emphasis on academics and their impact, Cruikshank said. Each year, UT officials receive hundreds of donation requests from schools across the region. The requests range from fiscal donations for science fairs and sponsorships to even underwriting the costs of a scoreboard, he explained.
When Szymanski approached him about a donation toward a GAC project, the two put their heads together to come up with the formal honors banquet on the college campus.
“Dr. Longenecker is a strong Christian man. He’ll give a real upbeat and positive message,” Cruickshank said. And Ransom will spread the message that the honors college is on the lookout to increase its enrollment by attracting goal-oriented students who love to be challenged.
Cruikshank had hoped to include a couple of other schools in the recognition dinner but their schedules didn’t mesh with the date GAC officials had requested.
“If this pilot project with Genoa works out, I would love to open it up to other schools in our region,” Cruickshank said.