Scholarship program recognizes 10 years

A room full of economically disadvantaged students awaited recognition Thursday night at The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program’s 10th Anniversary in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom.

The McNair Scholars Program prepares economically disadvantaged and traditionally under represented juniors and seniors for doctoral programs.

In the program students are assisted in preparing for graduate school by defining career goals, engaging in research, developing professional skills and engaging in student/faculty relationships. Jose Hernandez, coordinator for McNair Scholars Program, said the program specializes in the students.

“I think the program is special because we take care of the complete student,” Hernandez said. “We help them with their applications for grad school and the grad school assistance is invaluable.” Graduating senior and biology major Arturo Torres was honored to receive the recognition. “I feel honored and grateful. I was given the chance to get into medical school, and I did,” Torres said. However, Harold Nixon, vice president for Student Affairs, said the program should be available to more students.

“I am very much a supporter of the program; it has done extraordinary well for our students and provides an opportunity for our students to engage faculty mentors, which are absolutely fantastic,” Nixon said. “It would be great if we could get every student to participate in the program, but it is just not possible due to cost. It would be wonderful if we could.”

Junior Patricia Boiteux who is majoring in communication science and disorders, felt the same as Torres’ sentiment. “It’s an honor to be one of the 12 selected out of 75 applicants,” Boiteux said.

Robert Belle, keynote speaker and director for the Office of Federal TRIO Programs for the Department of Education, said he encouraged students to succeed. “The Challenger accident was an accident. Your being a McNair Scholar was no accident,” Belle said.

Joan Holmes, director for the McNair Scholars Program, said the program is special because it gives students who are not usually privileged an opportunity to excel.

“Essentially, we take a group of under represented scholars, black, Hispanic, Asian and white students, most from low- income families, and we prepare them to do something they didn’t even know they could do,” Holmes said.

The program began in October 1992, when the U.S. Department of Education funded a grant to start the program. At that time, there were only 68 funded McNair Scholars Programs in the nation, two of which were in Florida at Florida Agricultural Mechanical University. In the first trial, the inaugural group consisted of 20 students. And out of that group all 20 graduated from the program, 16 enrolled in graduate programs, 14 earned graduate degrees, two are doctoral candidates, and two have earned doctoral degrees.

In the last 10 years, 126 McNair Scholars have graduated, and 886 of them are enrolled, or graduated from graduate programs. Almost one-third are enrolled in a doctoral program or medical school. Two have already earned doctoral degrees, and 46 have completed master’s degrees.

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