News from Montgomery College News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 140, Rockville, MD 20850

For Immediate Release (00-23)
Date: May 30, 2000
Contact: Steve Simon, 240-567-7952 (pager: 301-930-2880)

Students Soar in Montgomery College's Charter Class of 'Scholars'
Honors Group Prepares for Summer Study at Prestigious Cambridge University

Rockville, MD -- Montgomery College student Emil Parker is truly looking forward to summer school. Parker and 24 of his classmates will be flying to Cambridge, England to study for a month at the University of Cambridge, as a part of the College’s new academic honors program known as the Montgomery Scholars.

The program, which just completed its first year of classes for a charter class of 25 students, provides high-performing students an opportunity to study at Montgomery College and face the same academic challenges of many of the nation's top four-year universities and colleges. Selected students remain in the Montgomery Scholars program for two years, with a summer study program at Cambridge, in between the freshman and sophomore years.

“I am doing more work than any of my friends at four-year programs,” said Parker, 19, a Germantown resident and international business major. “They are in awe of the program.”
The trip to England will culminate the first year of academic study for the inaugural class of 25 students, who have been given full academic scholarships to the college for their two-year stay.  The Scholars, who were selected from an original pool of more than 130 applicants, represent a cross-section of some of the most gifted and talented high school students from around the county.

Many opted against going directly to four-year schools -- such as the University of Maryland, Catholic University or Boston College -- to attend Montgomery College.  Some noted that they were lured by the chance to study abroad and to experience learning from the unique perspective offered by the program.

“It was hard not to go to the University of Maryland,” said Diana Gonzales, 19, a business major from North Potomac. “But being interested in international business, I couldn’t pass up studying abroad.”

A core curriculum of study was developed for the program by a select group of the college’s faculty, under a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities.

In the first year, the curriculum focused on humanities, arts and science and was taught by a team of teachers from each discipline working together to provide an integrated view of the subjects covered. In year two, the focus will be independent research and the writing of an honors thesis, in conjunction with the Montgomery College-Smithsonian Institution Faculty Seminar Series.

Among the highlights of the year for Dr. Robert White, a professor of philosophy at the College, was seeing the students grow from a collection of high school graduates to a community of students interested in learning and growing academically.

“In a way, it has been a high point of my career here,” said White, who has been teaching at Montgomery College for 28 years. “These students grew immensely.”

While the academic demands of the program were daunting, Parker and Gonzales noted that having a small group of highly motivated peers spurred and gave support to individuals who needed it. Gonzales said she became so excited about anthropology that she took a second course in the subject, even though she is a business major.

“The program opened up academic doors I never knew existed,” said Gonzales, adding that she is considering applying for transfer to more academically challenging colleges and universities than she originally envisioned, having had the experience of the Montgomery Scholars program.
In addition to juggling the weekly writing assignments and seminars, the Montgomery Scholars managed to find time for extracurricular activities, such as weekly gatherings at local coffee houses or parks for football games and picnics.
Gonzales, Parker and others noted that the disappointment of staying home and seeing friends go off to four-year schools was more than compensated by the Montgomery College friendships that grew out of the experience of jointly facing the rigors of the Scholars program.

“Many of us, it is safe to say, were worried about not hanging out with our friends and being with a group of high-achieving students who would only want to work all the time,” said Gonzales. “But that was completely not the case. We worked hard and pushed each other, and we enjoyed hanging out with each other.”

While the inaugural class is completing its month-long study at Cambridge University, the second wave of scholars will be starting their bonding process with a weekend retreat at Harper’s Ferry in August.  According to Professor Dianne Ganz Sheper, who directs the Scholars program, recruiting for the second class of scholars has been made easier because of the success of the first year.

“There are many bright, young high school seniors for whom the Scholars program represents the answer to a prayer,” said Ganz Sheper. “If you could read some of the testimonials on applications, you would be quite moved.”

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