Clark State Scholars Program inducts 80 in 15th year of service

Dani Hower, a graduate of the Clark State Scholars Program and current Clark State Community College student, addresses the 80 newest inductees of the Scholars Program at the Clark State Performing Arts Center during an induction ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Photo by Brett Turner
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Dani Hower, a graduate of the Clark State Scholars Program and current Clark State Community College student, addresses the 80 newest inductees of the Scholars Program at the Clark State Performing Arts Center during an induction ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Photo by Brett Turner

Eighty local students from the class of 2023 got an early jump on post-gradation plans as the Clark State Scholars Program inducted its latest members.

Eighth graders from Springfield City Schools, Graham and Urbana schools in Champaign County and, for the first time, Clark-Shawnee and Tecumseh, were inducted in a ceremony that also marked the program’s 15th anniversary.

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The program is for students who would become the first members of their families to earn a college degree. Over the course of their high school years, the students must maintain a 2.0 or greater GPA and meet other requirements.

Upon successfully completing the criteria and graduation, they will receive three years of tuition-free education at Clark State Community College. Tuition is provided by the Clark State Foundation.

Whereas several past inductions were done in the Hollenbeck Bayley Conference Center, the Kuss Auditorium at the Clark State Performing Arts Center was used for this occasion.

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With the first year for the Clark County schools and the second for Champaign County, Clark County Scholars Program director Kanesha Scott said increased interest and contributions are making the program more accessible to more students.

“We’ve been on a roll thanks to our great business partners and approached other benefactors,” she said. “It’s exciting to bring the students onto the stage they’ll someday graduate on.”

Dani Hower, a Scholars Program graduate working on her criminal justice degree at Clark State, told the students she had struggles at times but persevered. She’s is focused on several career goals including becoming a police officer and maybe an FBI agent as well as a mentor for this program.

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Hower stressed the students priorities should be staying in school, studying hard and overcoming their fears.

“I can’t say how grateful I am for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.

Several program volunteer mentors will be available to help the students meet their requirements and goals.

The 80 students wore identical Clark State hooded sweatshirts as they walked across the Kuss stage Tuesday night to accept their membership from Clark State president Dr. Jo Alice Blondin and their district superintendents, often to the cheers of family and friends.

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Paula Crew, superintendent of the Tecumseh Local School District, was thrilled her district was included for the first time. She’s especially grateful for the one-on-one mentoring to make sure the kids stay on the college path.

“We’re very appreciative of Clark State for this opportunity for our students to go to college,” said Crew.

Brandea Roe described the opportunity as a dream come true for her son, Hayward Middle School student Nicholas Robinson. He admitted to being nervous on that big stage, but is happy to have this to look forward to.

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Shawnee Middle School student Alexis Craig-White originally planned to try to land an athletic scholarship, but realized it’s hard to depend on, so just being able to fill out the paperwork and writing an essay landed her opportunity, one she wouldn’t have had a year ago.

“It’s kinda’ huge,” she said, smiling.

“I think I’m going to cry,” said Jennifer Craig, Alexis’s mom, who attended with husband Kristopher. “This feels like a weight off our shoulders.”

For more information on the program, go to www.clarkstate.edu/about-clark-state/youth-outreach-programs/scholars-program/.

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