Camelot Students Inspired by Visit to Morgan State University
Students from Camelot Education’s Cougar Academy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania recently went on a field trip to Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. The visit to the historically black college is part of a larger program aimed to expose students to a wide range of post-secondary education opportunities.
Jim Snyder, the school’s executive director who coordinated this trip, among many more, says his students returned from this visit with even more motivation to graduate and succeed. Snyder has been with Camelot for nine years.
“Part of our push at Cougar Academy is post-secondary education,” Snyder said. According to Snyder the purpose is to get the students excited about and even more focused on what opportunities are available to them when they leave school. “Many of our students are dealing with trauma when they come to us and haven’t given much thought to future educational opportunities. As a result, many of them are not as informed as they could be about their wide range of options after high school. In order to give our students the greatest amount of post-secondary exposure, every month we take them to a different college, university, or vocational school. This September, I wanted them to experience a Division One (large) school that is also a historically black college or university (HBCU).”
Camelot’s Cougar Academy serves student who were removed from their regular school for behavioral infractions, are behind in credit accumulation, risk not matriculating with their cohort, or risk not graduating from high school on time. Cougar Academy excels in re-engaging students in their education by helping them overcome social, emotional, and academic challenges in their lives, resulting in improved life and educational outcomes.
“We also take them to trade schools, not just universities. Not every student wants to go to college, so we remain cognizant of our students’ differences. Our last college visit was to Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. We also take them to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) colleges, and recently, we visited Harrisburg University, one of the leading STEM schools and a perfect option for some of our students who are interested in computer coding or computer game development,” Snyder said. He added that his students have toured beauty and barber schools to give them a full range of post-secondary options.
“Part of our philosophy at Cougar Academy is not ‘if’ you graduate but ‘when’ you graduate,” he said. Students chose Morgan State for the recent visit because it’s far enough away from Pennsylvania so they could live on campus but also close enough to visit home when they wanted to. “The visit to Morgan State was very inspirational for them, not just because it’s a HBCU, but when they arrived and toured the campus, they saw students they recognized – students who had been to Cougar Academy that they knew. You can imagine how motivating that was.”
Nakai Shepard, age 17, who recently visited Howard University for a baseball tournament, agreed and said it was a huge confidence boost for him and his peers. Shepard is also a mentor for students in Cougar Academy’s elementary school program.
“I really liked the campus; seeing all of the mutual respect the students and teachers showed each other and the work they were doing is encouraging. But when I saw students there who I recognized from Cougar Academy, that was very uplifting,” Shepard said. Shepard, who wants to go into social work, hasn’t decided on a college yet but added that visiting Morgan State is making him seriously consider an HBCU.
“There were students from Cougar Academy that I thought wouldn’t make it,” he said. “And seeing them at Morgan State made me even more aware and confident of what I’m capable of. I’ve been through a lot, and seeing young people who are focused on their studies, not fighting but really communicating and focused on their future careers, means a lot. It gave me a sense of pride.”