Tennessee Achieves summer institute continues to grow at Whitehaven

Jerrod Bowlton figured that taking college classes in the summer would help fight off “summer melt” and give him a head start on earning some college credits when he enrolls at Southwest as a freshman in the fall.

Students in the Tennessee Achieves summer institute at the Whitehaven Center work on an English assignment taught by instructor Brice Wilson.

Students in the Tennessee Achieves summer institute at the Whitehaven Center work on an English assignment taught by instructor Brice Wilson.

Bowlton, a recent graduate of Freedom Preparatory Academy, was one of 47 students who gave up their summer to enroll in the Tennessee Achieves (tnAchieves) Summer Institute at the Whitehaven Center. The summer institute is a 10-week support program for Tennessee Promise scholarship students who have scored low on their ACT exam and need to take support classes to help them better matriculate into college courses following high school graduation.

Bowlton said the classes gave him something to do over the summer and have kept him in the learning mood and ready to return to school. “When you are off for the summer, you forget a lot of the things you learn, and then you have to try and get back into it when school starts,” Bowlton said. “So I feel like this program is keeping me in the mindset so when I do start in the fall I will be ready.”

The students can enroll in English, reading, and math classes. Once their support classes are complete, the students take three college level courses in statistics, English composition 1, and academic success that count toward their degree. Classes run four days a week, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with optional tutoring sessions on Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. This is the third year that the Whitehaven Center has hosted the tnAchieves summer institute. Participants are mainly low-income students who have graduated from high schools in the Whitehaven area of Memphis.

Christine Frazier, tnAchieves completion coach, said the summer institute program is beneficial because the students receive help in areas where they are weak and then move on to earn actual college credit. “This is a great opportunity for students,” Frazier said. “If they complete everything, they have the opportunity to earn nine hours of college credit which essentially puts them a whole semester ahead when they start in the fall.”

Frazier said all of the classes are taught by Southwest instructors which has the added benefit of exposing the students to what the college experience will be like. “They will have already been acclimated to being taught by a college professor,” Frazier said. “So this helps them adjust a little better to it.”

Dr. Verneta Boone, director of the Whitehaven Center, said enrollment in the summer institute is growing. Last year, 26 students took classes in the summer institute. Boone said their data from the first cohort that enrolled in the program three years ago show the summer institute is making a difference in achievement results. Students achieved a ‘B’ grade or better in classes like composition 2, reading, history, and sociology. “The program is a big help,” Boone said. “They are getting one-on-one treatment here. They are learning about every resource the school has available to them. They get the tutoring. They see the student activities. They are getting instruction on how to use the library. So they are experiencing every resource.”

Caiya Bexley, a graduate of Ridgeway High School, said the summer institute has helped improve her reading skills. “Reading has been my lowest subject,” Bexley said. “Going to class has made me better because I am learning more about transitional words. My reading is a lot better.” Bexley will enroll in classes at the Maxine A. Smith Center in the fall and eventually hopes to transfer to the Union Avenue Campus to study nursing. “Coming here has really helped me see that when I do go to Southwest in the fall I can do better and not have to take these classes that I am taking now,” said Bexley.

For information on becoming a Tennessee Achieves volunteer coach, visit Tennessee Achieves.