Schuler Scholars growing in number, thriving at Maine East
A program that has demonstrated remarkable success in preparing adolescents for the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities is entering its third year and continuing to grow and thrive at Maine East High School in Park Ridge.
The Schuler Scholar Program, established in 2001 by the family of former Abbott Laboratories CEO Jack W. Schuler and his daughter, Tanya Schuler Sharman, now includes 58 incoming freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Maine East.
The program selects about two dozen high-achieving eighth graders each year and undertakes intensive efforts to prepare them during their four years at East for admission to and academic success at top-tier private colleges and universities. The program chooses teens who would be the first in their family to attend college and for whom higher education would be out of reach financially without assistance.
At East, which is one of eight partner schools for Schuler in Illinois, the program now includes 19 recently inducted freshmen, 26 sophomores and 12 juniors.
The program offers new and shifting challenges for Schuler Scholars at each grade level. The 26 rising freshmen will spend 10 days this summer participating in a leadership camp in Wisconsin. They also will take a six-week preparatory course designed to bolster their readiness for high school algebra.
For rising sophomores, this summer’s agenda includes a preparatory class for geometry-trigonometry and participation in a writers camp conducted by the Glenview-based Writers Theater. Here students hone their writing skills by fusing science fiction themes with elements of theater.
For East’s dozen juniors entering their third year as Schuler Scholars, the focus begins to shift to college preparation. While these students will continue to face rigorous academic demands their final two years of high school, the program also begins now to prepare them in specific ways for higher education.
All 12 junior Schuler Scholars from East are involved in summer college programs at schools such as Brown, Vanderbilt, Princeton, Emory and Johns Hopkins, studying in such fields as anthropology, quantitative reasoning, medicine, communications, legal studies, science and engineering.
“Academically, the program’s expectations are higher as they move from one grade to the next,” said East’s Schuler Scholar Program Director Joanne Bertsch. “These summer programs give them an opportunity to get a glimpse of what all their hard work is preparing them for.”
Karly Vance, a Schuler Education Counselor, added that: “They get the experience of living in dorms, taking college courses. It’s a practice run. It gets the wheels turning about what kind of school they want to be attending.”
The summer experience also gives rising juniors valuable real-world practice in filling out applications, as the summer programs are competitive and selective. In completing these applications, Bertsch and Vance noted, students begin to think about what they will have to offer as scholars in the coming years.
To qualify for the Schuler Program, eighth graders must demonstrate a solid academic record and receive recommendations from teachers and counselors. A select group of applicants is invited to interview with Schuler staff members, who also speak with parents in order to gauge family support, essential for a student's success.
But the Schuler Scholar Program is looking for even more than good grades and a favorable family profile. It requires participants to be involved in extracurricular activities and community service. They are scouting for students with leadership potential, and the program utilizes varied means to nurture that potential.
Schuler tutors its scholars and preps them for ACT exams. It expects the scholars to take Advanced Placement or honors courses. It requires a reading program geared to prepare students for the rigors they will face at a top-caliber university. Schuler expands students' cultural horizons by taking them to theater, symphonic and opera productions.
Finally, the program leads its students on tours of elite schools on both East and West coasts, as well as in the Midwest. The Schuler Scholar Program covers the expense of all these activities, and it enjoys a remarkable success rate in placing its scholars in top-notch universities.
Other Schuler partners among suburban schools are Waukegan, Highland Park, Warren, Round Lake, St. Martin de Porres and North Chicago high schools and Collins Academy.