October 2, 2015

Program Helping IPS Students Attend Purdue Renamed, Refocused

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A group of Indianapolis Public Schools students takes part in one of the first Science Bound activities in 2005 on the Purdue University campus. - Purdue University Archive Photo

A group of Indianapolis Public Schools students takes part in one of the first Science Bound activities in 2005 on the Purdue University campus.

Purdue University Archive Photo

For 13 years Purdue University, Indianapolis Public Schools and the Indianapolis business community have provided a pathway for low income and first-generation college-bound students at IPS to graduate and attend Purdue. But the program -- Science Bound -- has remained largely under the radar.

Now, a new name and alignment with a future school could change that, say its organizers. 

Last week at Arsenal Tech High, a couple dozen juniors and seniors are tearing into bags of chips and working on resumes and financial aid forms after school in the classroom of Elvia Solis, a teacher and program mentor.

A student is telling Solis how he wants to find an internship in the motorsports industry. Others are asking which of their school activities and achievements should end up on their resume.

This is Science Bound -- a hands-on, multi-year program to prepare students for college and a career in math and technology.

But something else also attracts them.

“Definitely the money,” says Dominic Bennett, who's been in Science Bound since 9th grade. “But actually, the studying part is really helpful too.”

If these IPS students maintain a B average, stay out of trouble and attend most of the program’s activities — like summer camps, internships and test prep courses — they are eligible for a full-ride scholarship to Purdue.

For some, that’s enough reason to attend Tech, Crispus Attucks or Shortridge -- the only Indianapolis high schools that offer Science Bound. For others, it gives a needed boost.

“If Science Bound wasn’t available I’d probably be going to a different high school,” Pat Gregorek, a  junior in the program since 8th grade. His sister went to Purdue and Gregorek wanted to follow her in footsteps.

Teacher mentors spend years helping students navigate the path to college and keeping them on track. They organize trips to Purdue, help them with studying, connect them with local businesses -- like Rolls Royce.

Students start as early as 6th grade -- learning about science and getting their hands dirty with experiments. Then they focus on getting internships for their summer after junior year. During senior year, they apply for college, whether it be Purdue or somewhere else.

Now, the program is going through a slight revamp.

“The name has changed, it is now Purdue Bound,” says Wesley Campbell, the program director on the West Lafayette campus.

Campbell explains the rebanding lets students know they can seek all type of degrees within science -- like engineering, technology, nursing, pharmacy -- not just straight science.

Purdue Bound will also become a core part of Purdue Polytechnic High School -- a charter school the university expects to open in Fall 2017 in the city.

Since 2007, 307 IPS students have completed the program and been eligible for the Purdue scholarship Of those about 60 percent went to Purdue, most chose other colleges. Since 2011 -- 63 students have graduated as Boilermakers.

Campbell says around 20 students each year enroll at Purdue as part of the program. His goal is to have 30 students become freshman Boilermakers annually.

“We have actually doubled the number of student from IPS that are coming to Purdue. So in that sense we believe it is a success,” Campbell says. “We know we impacting not only the students but changing lives one family at a time. But now, could it be improved and made better? Of course it can. We are trying to do that with IPS.”

Campbell would like IPS to make available more options for advanced math, like second year calculus. That will make Purdue Bound students more competitive when apply for the university.

But IPS faces challenges including, finding highly qualified math teachers and expertise to teach in urban schools.

Back in Elvia Solis’ class at Arsenal Tech, she is helping students complete their resumes.

She teaches earth science and AP environmental science and had been involved with Science Bound since it began.

Solis says the program makes students realize they can get into a top four-year college if they try hard enough.

“Why do I keep doing it? Because I like working with these kids,” she says. “I like knowing that maybe we can get some of them somewhere where they didn’t think they could.”

This story is part of WFYI's American Graduate initiative. Tune in Saturday, October 3 to 90.1 FM, and WFYI One for a day of education programming that explores efforts to raise the high-school graduation rate and improve student outcomes. 

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