Why is the NH Scholars program so important? In order to answer the question, you must know what the scholars program is.
In 2007 six school districts entered into a pilot program called NH Scholars. This program encourages students to take a more rigorous core course of study in high school. The program is based on a partnership between a community’s local business leaders and its school district – a great idea to make the entire community part of the plan. This idea has caught on and now 78 of our high schools are part of the program. The question is, why not all schools? That question remains unanswered.
The program was put in place to answer a need. The business community needs a more prepared and skilled workforce. This program is the best way to ensure that our middle and high school students exceed high school graduation requirements. It has been working and it will continue to work if all high schools get into the program.
In 2007, 72 high school seniors graduated with distinction. Nine years later in 2016, the program recognized 5,300 NH Scholars. Overall, since 2007, 25,000 high school students have graduated as NH Scholars; quite an accomplishment. There are many incentives for students to participate in the NH Scholars program. They get access to business mentors, college scholarships, college application fee waivers, a special recognition on their diploma as well as recognition at their senior award night and at graduation. Perhaps most impressive, is that more than 95% of all NH Scholars enroll in college the following fall.
Over 400 business and community leaders volunteer as mentors in NH Scholars schools. This is a great aspect of the program which must be encouraged and kept on an ongoing basis.
The program is primarily funded through the NH Department of Education, which is a key player in this attempt to get more out of a high school diploma. Other contributions also come from corporate sponsors to help underwrite events and programming, such as the Breakfast of Champions where scholars and educators get together in Manchester. At the conclusion of the academic year, a statewide recognition event is held at the Fisher Cats Stadium. It is a wonderful event that the students truly enjoy and remember.
In 2015, 36 percent of all NH high school seniors graduated as NH Scholars. That percentage is up from 21 percent in 2012. As a result of participating in the NH Scholars program, a student is better prepared for college and career, more successful in college level course work, a better candidate for college admission and merit scholarship, and they have attained the basic 21st century skills employers are looking for.
These are some of the reasons why the NH Scholars program is working and needs support from parents, school districts and the business community. I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about the program to visit www.NHscholars.org
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Sen. Lou D’Allesandro is from Manchester and has represented the people of District 20 for nine terms. For the 2015-2016 legislative session he is Vice Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee and sits on the Finance and Capital Budget Committees. You can reach Sen. D’Allensandro at email@example.com. He is a regular contributor to Manchester Ink Link with his NH Senate Report.