On Oct. 3, high school students from across the Springfield area gathered at Missouri State University for the annual Youth Empowerment Summit to learn about college life, post high school preparation and higher learning opportunities.
The YES conference is an annual, daylong workshop that African-American high school students from throughout the Springfield area participate in as a part of the Drury Scholar’s program.
The Drury Scholar’s program was started eight years ago in order to increase college readiness in African-American high school students and also has a variety of programs that help benefit the student’s academic careers while still in high school.
Rosalyn Thomas, a retired schoolteacher from the Springfield School District, has held the position of coordinator for Drury Scholar’s for the past 3 years and has been involved in the program since its beginning. She explained that the program has changed quite a bit since its start.
Thomas explained that in the beginning of the Drury Scholars program, opportunities were limited to only a handful of students. “Those students had 3.5s and 4.0s, but we realized that those weren’t the students who really needed it,” she said.
In order to be a part of Drury Scholars, students used to have to get a letter of recommendation from a councilor or some other authority figure in their school. Now, the students can even nominate one another.
Thomas went on to say how the professionals and adults involved in the program want the students to see their involvement in the program as being meaningful to them on a personal level.
“We tell the students to ask themselves questions like, ‘Why do I want to go to college.” Thomas said.
Daisha Hundle, Nina Sanders and Ashton Hawkins, high school juniors from Parkview High School said that they found out about Drury Scholars through Francine Pratt.
Pratt is the executive director for the Multicultural Resource Center.
They expressed how much they truly enjoyed the day at the YES conference and how appreciative they were of the college students who spent their days giving them a taste of college life and making them feel welcome at the conference.
“I feel prepared to go to college,” Hawkins said.
Pratt explained that though the professionals involved in the YES conference always hope the students considered attending Missouri State, the main focus is for them to be prepared for college wherever they decide to attend.