College Prep Program’s inaugural class comes together as a ‘community of scholars’

High-achieving St. Louis high school sophomores spend two weeks on campus learning about college and each other

Marques Davis of University City High School liked learning about solar panels. Markell Lomax of Lift for Life Academy was wowed by the slam poetry performance. And Zuan Le of McKinley Classical Leadership Academy appreciated the feedback he received at the Writing Center. But, most of all, the 26 members of Washington University’s new College Prep Program enjoyed meeting each other.

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Zuan Le of McKinley Classical Leadership Academy says he wants to study medicine in college  (Credit: Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos)

The goal is to prepare students for college and its challenges, said Leah Merrifield, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement. She was impressed by how quickly the students came together as a community of scholars. Most of the participants had never been away from home; many had never been on a college campus.

“They know they are part of something bigger,” Merrifield said. “They feel accountable to each other and they trust each other. There will continue to be many academic opportunities for them, but this summer we focused on who they are and want they want to be.”

Davis would like to be a mechanical engineer or a designer. His mother recently returned to college to study nursing and encouraged him to apply to the program.

“I was afraid at first to be away from home, but sometimes you have to just conquer your fears and do what you need to do to be successful,” Davis said. “I’m glad I came because I love this campus. It’s huge and full of delightful people, people who are harmonizing with each other.”

Program assistant Tayler R. Geiger is a first-generation college student himself. He said he could relate to the questions these young students have about college.

“Growing up in Kansas City, I knew about one school — Mizzou,” said Geiger, a rising junior in Arts & Sciences. “I didn’t know about the college application process or how to pick the right school for me. There is so much to learn. That’s what makes this program so great — these students will have a chance over the next three years to really get to know what the experience is like.”