This year, the ambitious initiative recruited its
first class of 200 Future Scholars. The pledge includes
bringing in an additional 200 Future Scholars each year
hereafter, with the prospect of graduating the first class
in 2017. To assure that these at-risk students meet the
admissions criteria, Rutgers is raising funds to sustain a
rigorous pre-college pipeline of support.
The program is already showing signs of success
based on school-district and donor support—and the
scholars’ attitudes and performance. “I didn’t think
I had a future until I was selected to be a Rutgers
Future Scholar,” said Lamont Higgins, now an eighth-grader in a New Brunswick, N.J., school. Higgins
credits the program for his motivation to earn
A’s and B’s in every subject. The school’s Assistant
Superintendent Mary Egan concurs: “The outstanding
activities Rutgers University created for these students
have, in a short time, had a tremendous impact on
their self-worth, academic achievement and goals.”
Where Will Our Future Talent Come From?
Given the economic pressures to fill jobs from a home-grown pool of educated employees, the Rutgers Future
Scholars Program has struck a nerve and addressed a
serious need in the corporate and private sectors. In
response, several organizations have invested in the
initial phases of the program, including AT&T (No.
2 on The 2009 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for
Diversity® list), Brotherton Charitable Foundation,
DiversityInc, the Fund for New Jersey, State Farm,
Xerox (No. 35) and Merck Company Foundation
(Merck & Co. is No. 8). Merck has invested $750,000
and DiversityInc Foundation donated $25,000 to fund
the initial phase of research. This will help blueprint
the Future Scholars Program with the intention of
building a complete plan for implementation by other
“If this program stays in New Jersey,
it’s only a 49th of what it should
be. That’s why we’re producing a
blueprint to take the Rutgers Future
Scholars Program nationally.”
colleges and universities across the country.
“Rutgers University is attempting to incite a national movement in an effort to replicate the Future
Scholars’ mission of providing hope and opportunity
to young people from underserved communities
throughout the United States,” says Aramis Gutierrez,
director of Rutgers Future Scholars.
Private donors have reacted positively as well.
Steve Colson, an entrepreneur in the construction industry, donated $100,000 to set up a Future Scholars
Endowment. Colson recognizes the need to help
these bright kids escape from the minefields of their
communities and to support Rutgers.
The university anticipates that the program will
have replicable components that will encourage other
higher-education institutions to take a leadership
role in improving graduation and college-attendance
rates for those statistically at risk to drop out. The
earlier such programs are introduced, the better.
Components of the initiative include research
tools to track each entering student’s progress over
time: pre- and post-summer program surveys;
Research Assessment Package for Schools; and
ReadiStep skills’ assessment piloted by the College
Board and the Cultural Resilience Scale. Although
still in its inaugural year, the Rutgers Future Scholars
Program has already demonstrably changed the
attitudes and hopes of the first group of middle-school students and their families. By embracing this
mission and from research results and accountabili-ty-driven practices, Rutgers hopes to serve as a model
for fellow institutions statewide and nationally. In
partnerships with institutions, school districts and
sponsors, there can be a transformation in the lives
of low-income, talented students. Bleak futures can
become bright and positively affect the lives of those
who are more fortunate as well.
Megan Schramm-Possinger, Ph.D., is a researcher for the
Rutgers Future Scholars Program.
DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti is the co-chair of the fund-raising committee for the Rutgers Future Scholars Program.
For more information or to help fund this initiative,
e-mail Luke at lvisconti@DiversityInc.com