Reading Collegiate Scholars ProgramAlvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars Program (RCSP) aims to help break the cycle of poverty for the City of Reading by supporting the educational dreams of many talented young people.

Unlike other inner-city scholarship programs devoted to providing opportunity to deserving students, Alvernia is providing multiple supports as well as funds to students who are talented and deserving. The university and the student scholars themselves have set high goals: not merely attending college but graduating from college and becoming successful professionals and committed servant-leaders.

Grant support from the Wyomissing Foundation helped enable Alvernia’s RCSP to have a very successful pilot year in 2014–2015. Funds were used to help launch two of the RCSP’s key programmatic elements: the College Readiness and Success Program that prepares talented high school students for college and the Summer Bridge Program that supports the transition to college for those scholars who choose to attend Alvernia.

Reading Collegiate Scholars ProgramNearly 100 high school seniors participated in the College Readiness and Success Program, which operated in partnership with the Olivet Boys and Girls Club. Of those 97 students, 77 took advantage of more than one guidance session, received help in filling out college applications, and were accepted into college. In addition, 75 students in grades 9–11 received tutoring and college readiness assistance provided through Alvernia’s AmeriCorps VISTA program.

In May 2015, Reading students benefited from a no-cost, intensive, college writing workshop presented by two Alvernia faculty members in the final RCSP event of the academic year.

Reading Collegiate Scholars ProgramAnother crucial element of the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program is the Summer Bridge Program, directed by the O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service. The Summer Bridge is designed to support Reading area high school seniors who have participated in the RCSP, achieved a high school diploma, and have made the decision to enroll at Alvernia University.

Consistent with emerging best practices, each group of scholars moves through their college career as a cohort, sharing experiences and supporting one another. The Summer Bridge helped to build a foundation for each cohort by providing the skills, knowledge, and confidence to succeed at Alvernia. It also formed a basis for ongoing college success programming for individual scholars, their families, and for the cohort as a whole.

Reading Collegiate Scholars ProgramThe Summer Bridge program was held on the Alvernia campus for six days in summer 2014. Students experienced intensive college preparation programming, including:

• Leadership and team-building skills training
• Training in cross-cultural competency and conflict resolution
• Communications and electronic media training
• Personal financial advising
• Guidance in development of a personal narrative
• Self-advocacy training

Reading Collegiate Scholars ProgramAdditional components of the Summer Bridge program included a family orientation session, self-reflection through the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory, a learning styles assessment, and other activities. An ongoing feature of the program connects students and their families with the student’s academic advisor, academic mentor, and community mentors to assist in resolving issues of a personal or academic nature.

Alvernia University believes that the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program can become a national model of how mid-sized cities can foster college success for lower income students through the combined efforts of higher education, business and civic leaders, and youth services organizations. By means of this program, Reading area students are already on their way to realizing their dream of graduating from college with a four-year degree.

Reading Collegiate Scholars Program