KCKCC Saturday Academy foundation for students' success

posted Aug 19, 2011, 7:38 PM by Dr. Cynthia Annett
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KCKCC Saturday Academy foundation for students' success
Posted by on August 12, 2011 - 8:34am



College and medical Students are part of the teaching staff at the Saturday Academy of Science and Math that meets each weekend at Kansas City Kansas Community College throughout the school year.

Why is that special?

“These same students were once part of the Academy in middle school and high school,” says Saturday Academy Director Marcia Pomeroy. “Now young professionals, they are the immediate role models for the Kansas City Kansas Public School middle and high school students participating in Saturday science labs, project development, health care and careers awareness.”

A partnership funded by the University of Kansas School of Medicine, the Office of Cultural Enhancement and Diversity (OCED) and KCKCC, the Saturday Science and Math Academy has been a huge success for students in the Kansas City Kansas Public School District since its founding in 1999.

“College was not as big an adjustment for me as many of my peers,” says Leonna Edwards, a Washburn University senior and summer instructor after completing the Saturday Academy, Media and summer residential programs. “I knew what to expect from college and dorm life and wasn’t afraid to talk with college instructors when needing help.”

Under the leadership of Pomeroy and her OCED K-12 staff, the Academy brings in 60 middle and 60 high school students each academic year to study math and science. The students are from the KCK Public School District’s five high schools – F.L. Schlagle, J.C. Harmon, Sumner Academy, Washington and Wyandotte – and the district’s inner-city core middle schools.

Pomeroy said graduates of Saturday Academy frequently come home from college and graduate school to check in on the students and the program leaders. “They feel part of the larger Academy family,” says Pomeroy.

In developing the multi-tiered mentoring component of peer mentors, college and medical school mentors and teachers that she refers to as “relational instructors,” Pomeroy firmly believes the process is as important as the product.

“The process of building relationships and trust over time is a tried and successful method of the Academy and SEPA programs,” she says.

For some students, the Academy has changed their lives.

“One of our students who started with our Academy in seventh grade was homeless with his mother at eight years of age,” says Dr. Mary Patterson, an adjunct chemistry instructor at KCKCC who teaches at the Saturday Academy.

“He participated in all the enrichment programs provided by the OCED and KCKCC starting out in middle school with building Organic Teaching Gardens at Northwest, attending Saturday Academy and continuing through  his high  school years as a senior mentor in Academy.  He is starting his second year at Washington University in pre-med this fall.”

Graduates of the Academy are at such widespread and prestigious institutions of higher learning as the University of Chicago, Boston University, Duke University, University of Iowa and St. Claire, Washington University to name a few.

“We have two students applying for medical school, one on the waiting list at Harvard and another who was admitted to Harvard but chose to stay closer to home and attend KU,” says Patterson.

The OCED K-12 office sends applications to each of the schools in August and students who have participated in the programs in prior years.

“We have to turn away more than 100 students a year,” says Dr. Ed Kremer, the KCKCC Dean of Math, Science and Computer Technology and one of four principal founders of the Academy. Selection of students is based on grades and recommendations from teachers and families of former students. “We’ve had kids who didn’t make it still come to the orientation hoping to get in,” added Dr. Kremer.

There is no cost to the students, who come predominantly from low income families. Instruction is given each Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and breakfast and lunch are provided along with transportation to and from the college.

Pomeroy said primary funding comes from two federal grants provided the KU School of Medicine through the OCED department and directed by Principle Investigator Dr. Patricia Thomas. Pomeroy is the Director of the K-12 Initiative for OCED and partner with the KCKCC Science, Math and Technology department.

DST and Euronet along with the Kansas Health Foundation have been long-time supporters of the program, which depends on funding from business and foundations to enhance the programs for the students and staff.

“We have almost zero behavior problems,” says Patterson. “Students want to be at the Academy and know there’s a waiting list.”

Students can attend the Academy for two years in middle school and three years in high school. As high school seniors, 10 to 15 students become senior mentors and help with instruction, Academy set up for supplies, lunch and breakfast along with providing support for the students and faculty. The senior mentors are not included in the total student count of 120.

“We had 15 mentors this year,” notes Patterson. “Approximately 16 teachers from the KCK Public Schools, KCKCC, KUMC medical students and local college students and graduates make up the faculty.”

“Typically, a high school would offer two or three science labs a semester. We try to do a lab every Saturday,” says Dr. Kremer. “By making use of KCKCC’s lab equipment, students take on such varied lab activities as determining the number of calories in a peanut and watching the development of zygote to making solar panels, fertilizing fish eggs and dissecting a relevant organ system. For example, students dissected sheep hearts to study the importance of the heart as a pump and to understand more fully the importance of eating right and exercising to keep their own heart healthy.”

This past year’s academy theme was nutrition and energy balance. “We provided projects with nutrition such as studying organic foods versus processed foods,” said Pomeroy. Other areas of focus included urban development, the accessibility of KCK’s inner-city population to healthy produce and land use for use for parks and other exercise areas. Math activities focused on ratios and proportions with the building of models, buildings and entire city blocks to scale.

“We offer the school district’s curriculum in a fun way,” says Dr. Kremer.

Each year a Parent Demonstration and Breakfast day takes place during February.  During Parent Demonstration Day, the students provide table demonstrations of labs they learned. Parents and siblings are the students while the Academy students become the instructors.

Support outside of the Academy is also provided by instructors. Patterson voluntarily helps Academy students by assisting students in filling out college applications and making contacts and setting up interviews and has personally driven numerous Academy graduates to widespread campuses to help them make intelligent decisions about the college or university they choose.

“The ultimate goal,” says Patterson, “is to help students by providing enrichment to support their science and math electives that will help their college and career goals. These outstanding KCKPS students just need to be shown what is out there for them educationally and career wise when they work hard.”


PHOTO: KCKCC Dean of Math, Science and Computer Technology Dr. Ed Kremer (left) assists students Zaklyat Lankford and Jowell Daniels dissect a sheep pluck as they study the pulmonary system in one of the many laboratories offered at the Saturday Academy held weekly at KCKCC during the school year.