Media Advisory: Washington University College Prep scholars graduate April 22

All 34 scholars will be attending college in the fall

College Prep graduates live and learn on campus for three summers, taking courses for college credit, preparing college essays and developing the skills needed to thrive in college. 
Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University

What: Washington University in St. Louis College Prep Program graduation

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 22

Where: Knight Hall, Emerson Auditorium. Parking is available in the Millbrook Garage.

Washington University in St. Louis will celebrate the graduation of the second cohort of its College Prep Program, an innovative initiative that prepares low-income, first-generation students for college. Admitted to the three-year program in the aftermath of Ferguson, Cohort 2 boasts 34 high-achieving students poised to thrive in college and make an impact in their communities.  

“These talented students came together in the wake of one of the most painful periods in the history of our region and grew as scholars and citizens,” said Leah Merrifield, associate vice chancellor for community engagement and St. Louis college readiness initiatives. “They are now better prepared to succeed in college and become great leaders.”

Speakers at the graduation include: Merrifield, who founded the program; Lori S. White, vice chancellor for students; Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, who will present to each student a College Prep cord; College Prep 2018 graduate and community activist Delton Utsey, a student at St. Louis University High School; College Prep 2018 graduate Antoinette Tipton, a student at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School; and John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri.  AT&T has donated more than $600,000 to the program and hosted scholars at AT&T for educational programming.

As of April 1, all members of Cohort 2 have been accepted into college. At least seven students will be attending Washington University, which will provide students financial support through its College Prep Scholarship.

What is College Prep? Washington University in St. Louis launched the free College Prep Program in June 2014 to prepare talented, first-generation students for college. Students apply as high school freshmen and spend three summers living and learning on campus. Scholars take classes for college credit, prepare their admission essays and learn effective study habits.

Who are the College Prep Scholars? About one-third of the second cohort hails from Ferguson, Mo., or the nearby communities impacted most by the unrest that followed the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. After the events in Ferguson, Washington University decided to expand the program to reach more students. The university will welcome its fifth cohort of 50 students in June.

Meet some of the graduates:

As a member of the College Prep Program, Nevils-Reed participated in the Design Thinking Workshop at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University

Khylan Nevils-Reed, a student at Collegiate School of Bioscience & Medicine, moved back to St. Louis from North Carolina shortly before Michael Brown was killed by a Ferguson police officer. The College Prep Program helped him put those tragic events in context.

“At first, I didn’t take a breath to reflect on what had happened. I just thought, ‘I will never be in that situation,’” Nevils-Reed said. “But we had some very real conversations about what it means to be a black man and how systematic oppression impacts my community. I came to better understand who I am and how I can be a leader.”

Nevils-Reed will be attending Washington University, where he plans to study neuroscience. Ultimately he would like to study degenerative diseases of the brain.


Holman presented to classmates during the cohort’s first summer on campus in 2015. Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University

Ella Holman, a student at Grand Center Arts Academy, lives in north St. Louis County. Her dad didn’t graduate from college, but that didn’t stop him from preparing Holman to succeed in school at a young age.

“When I was really little, he’d asked me to read signs on the road,” Holman said. “He always pushed me to do my best in school, but I learned here that it takes more than just being smart to graduate from college. You need to know how to manage your time and have good study skills and know where to go when you need help.”

Holman will be attending Washington University but is undecided about what she will study.

“I’ve always been interested in technology and engineering, but I also really like mathematics. And lately, I’ve really been into history and psychology,” Holman said. “It’s hard because I’m interested in everything.”

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