South Orange–Maplewood School District partners with the Kean U. Scholar Academy

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Eleven middle school students in the South Orange–Maplewood School District are a part of the first group of scholars accepted into the Kean University Scholar Academy, a dual-enrollment initiative that will prepare selected students for college by bringing them on campus to earn college credits and take part in mentorships, internships and other college experiences.

This partnership is the district’s first time offering dual-enrollment college-based programming to students. Eleven middle-school students from SOMSD are taking part in the inaugural class, which Kean University announced in May. The students are Maplewood Middle School’s Sherry Chen, Sharon Chen, Josephine Brophy, Tessa Lipkin, Timothy Van de North, Marahbelle Dumay and Yael Ben-Adi; and South Orange Middle School’s Sophia Halm, Jada Fowlkes, Kennedy Gilyard and Carter Weiss.

“We are so proud of the 11 SOMSD students who will be joining the inaugural Kean Scholar program,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Matthew Friedman said. “The eighth-grade students were invited to apply for the program by principals from Maplewood Middle School and South Orange Middle School; they then had to submit an application and were chosen after a rigorous selection process from members of Kean University administration.”

Students from at least 12 school districts from multiple counties were nominated and chosen by their principals for selection in the program. Criteria for the program are based on grades, school attendance, involvement and commitment to excel. The inaugural class of the Kean Scholar Academy will include approximately 125 students. The first cohort starts this summer with a four-week summer orientation on the university’s Union and Skylands campuses to learn about the college experience and meet members of their cohort. Students will get a taste of college life and will begin attending classes on campus once per week starting in the fall, and will also have team-building activities.

“By high school graduation, students may earn up to 12-15 college credits in their selected major and 40-60 college credits overall,” Scholar Academy Executive Director Jason Lester said. “The academy will provide internships, mentoring, social-emotional learning activities and counseling to ensure that all students follow the path to graduation.”

Students will be enrolled in the Kean Scholar Academy for all four years of high school. In ninth and 10th grades, they will take college courses in English, math and prerequisite subjects with other academy students. In their last two years, they will take classes in their major alongside other Kean students. At the same time, they will take high school classes and will also have the opportunity to work with municipal and business community members to research, investigate and provide solutions to issues in their communities. 

“High-quality postsecondary educational partnerships can be very valuable to a school district. Dual enrollment opportunities resulting in students earning transferable college credits are extremely valuable,” SOMSD Superintendent of Schools Ronald Taylor said. “The rising cost of college today has been well documented. Besides the cost savings, the impact of an authentic opportunity for high school students to experience in-person on-campus ‘college life’ is invaluable and can positively impact their life’s trajectory. We are very thankful to bring this opportunity to the students and families of our community.”

Kean University will provide technology, some transportation and other support services to students. Also, students in the Scholar Academy will have an individualized education plan based on their academic interests. During their tenure, students will receive a student ID for entrance to school buildings, as well as be provided a stipend for a meal plan to use when on campus. 

“We are really proud of this partnership with Kean because it ties into the district’s focus on building partnerships with local and regional universities,” Friedman said. “The program is so rich; we are preparing students for their future and they are going to be immersed in academic college culture. Among the many great opportunities, one of the key highlights is that upon graduating high school and completing the scholar program, students will have an opportunity to travel to the university’s campus in China, Wenzhou-Kean University.”