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February 23, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU hosts leadership program for Pittsburgh students

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Between 40 and 50 Pittsburgh high school students who have completed their sophomore year will spend two weeks this summer improving their academic, leadership and communication skills at Slippery Rock University as part of the R. Benjamin Wiley Partnership Program.

“This program is an enrichment program and it is an opportunity to orient, motive and prepare high school students for a successful college experience,” said Pamela Soeder, professor of elementary education and early childhood who has coordinated the SRU program since 1998.

“Program applications are now in the hands of guidance counselors at all of the Pittsburgh City School high schools. We will meet March 7 to review the applications and decide which students will be offered the opportunity to attend,” she said.

“As part of the process, we will look at students who have potential to succeed in college, but need academic and economic assistance. To be eligible for the program, a student must have completed ‘Algebra I’ with a grade of C or better by the end of their sophomore year and have good school attendance,” Soeder said.

The partnership program is a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education initiative that honors the late R. Benjamin Wiley, a member of the state system board of governors, including eight years as vice chair and seven as chair of the human resources committee. He had also served 21 years as a trustee at Edinboro University. In naming the program, the board noted, “Ben Wiley cared about and was proud of his association with the State System of Higher Education. He cared about everyone, especially young people and encouraged them to succeed.”

Begun in 1989, the program is offered in three phases, starting after the sophomore year in high school and ending with enrollment at a state system university. The first phase, which is offered at SRU, Bloomsburg, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown and Millersville, all sister PASSHE universities, works to increase student motivation, build self-esteem, develop persistence and encourage learning.

Students, who are successful in Phase I, move to Phase II during the summer after their junior year in high school. The second phase is offered at California, Clarion, Indiana, Mansfield and Shippensburg universities. The second summer program, a three-week camp, supports students in selecting high school courses to best prepare them for college. It helps participants build social skills and academics, including a program and course typical of a standard college experience.

The third phase of the program is actual enrollment at any one of the 14 state system universities after high school graduation. The final phase includes continuing financial incentives and support as well as continued counseling and program support for those who maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average.

“I try to remain in contact with all of the students who completed their Phase I participation here at SRU, then chose to enroll here,” Soeder said.

During their two-weeks at SRU this summer, the high school students will join in a number of outdoor physical challenges undertaken at SRU’s Knierim Leadership Institute Reach Program facility. They will also work on leadership and communication skill development, Soeder said. There is also an environmental component in which SRU works to increase student understanding of the overall environment and their role in its stewardship.

All phases of the program include a parent component in promoting their child’s advancement, Soeder said.

“During their SRU stay, the students live in a campus residence hall and work with the program counselors to build cohesive groups. In addition to work in the specialized program areas, there is also time for fun, including bowling, skating and games in the park. Students get to meet with President [Robert] Smith and he leads them through an exercise to show how they can improve their communication skills,” Soeder said.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.