(MEDIA ADVISORY: If media wish to attend the ceremony for this program, please contact the organizer listed below.)
Academic STARS is a program that works to recruit and welcome a group of students who make up 3 percent of West Virginia University’s student population and to keep them here once they decide to become Mountaineers.
The program, which began at Kent State University in Ohio decades ago and was adopted at WVU last summer, has a 99 percent success rate of retaining African-American students.
Ellis Lambert, a WVU sophomore from Martinsburg, said his experience with the program last summer prepared him for the rigors of college, got him on the way to a grade-point average of more than 3.0 and enhanced his talent for leadership.
“Because of the program, I focused on what I needed to do to stay in school,” Lambert said.
In his first year at WVU, he became the director of the WVU gospel choir and president of the first student chapter of the NAACP at WVU.
“They always stressed to be who you are and want to excel on this campus in all ways possible, being a leader as well as a follower,” he said of STARS.
The five-week academic and social program showed him the resources available to minority students, helped him form connections with upperclassmen and administrators, and taught him information about his origins that he didn’t learn in his previous education.
“We learned a lot about our culture and where our African-American people come from,” he said. “We really stressed family and community, and that’s a very strong African principle that really helped us to depend on one another.”
Lambert believes that because WVU has the program, the university is proving its commitment to all students.
“It really says that WVU is really concerned about every group at this university, every single ethnicity or every single cultural background,” he said. “WVU’s really trying to be a very diverse school.”
Academic STARS kicks off this Sunday (June 27) at a ceremony in the Gold and Blue ballroom in the Towers residential complex at noon for invited students, their families and staff.
Marjorie Fuller, director of the Center for Black Culture and Research at WVU, said that though the students from the first class are only going to be sophomores this fall, they are already active in leadership roles.
“The purpose of the program is not only to retain the students but to develop their leadership potential,” she said.
STARS consists of five weeks of education: an English class and various workshops, including African-American studies and student financial management. Students live in the dorms with former STARS participants as mentors for the summer program, participate in cultural activities that will continue into their first year at the university, and go on group trips.
The opening ceremony will include cultural traditions from Ghana and a visit from Ghanaian chieftain Nana Eduakwa. Students entering the Kent State STARS program this year will also be in attendance.
This year’s class will have 20 students, up from 15 last year.
Chelsea Fuller, a senior at WVU and graduate of the Kent State STARS program, assists in coordinating the program here.
She believes the STARS program is creating a community here for African American students that will support them as they work toward graduation.
“It definitely was the best decision I think I’ve made in regard to my academic or professional career,” she said of participating in STARS.
CONTACT: Marjorie Fuller, director of the Center for Black Culture and Research
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