Before graduating from Crispus Attucks High School, Kayla Saunders had already earned college credits and taken classes on campus at IUPUI, preparing her for what life as a college student would look like.
Kayla participated in the IUPUI SPAN Division, which helps students get a head start on college, by taking classes on campus with other college students and earning credits toward their future degree.
“Being in the SPAN allowed me to network with professors and other faculty, and allowed me to feel more comfortable when actually going to college, as I already knew what to expect from a cultural standpoint and from an academic standpoint,” Kayla said.
The SPAN Division has been a part of IUPUI for 35 years, offering six accelerated college immersion programs. And the programs have grown continuously, from just over 20 students to more than 300 served each year, SPAN Director J.R. Russell said.
In April 2007, the IUPUI chancellor, numerous IUPUI school deans, and the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) district superintendent of schools signed into action a formal collaboration and memorandum of understanding (MOU) between IUPUI and the IPS Crispus Attucks High School (CAHS). The memorandum, signed by then-IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz and then-IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White, outlined a desire to explore ways in which IUPUI and IPS could strengthen their urban academic collaboration by creating clear pathways for early college enrollment as well as curricular engagement between the two institutions.
In 2008, IUPUI and IPS developed and launched an accelerated university immersion initiative and scholarship program; the IUPUI CAHS SPAN Scholarship Initiative. This program serves as a gateway for CAHS students to enroll in on-campus IUPUI courses taught by university faculty. The core mission of this collaboration is to provide early enrollment opportunities for CAHS students in IUPUI courses while increasing the number of underrepresented students who enter, remain, and successfully complete a postsecondary education. SPAN provides university administrative scholarship oversight, policy development and implementation, IUPUI faculty and CAHS teacher curricular exchange opportunities, and academic and logistical support.
IUPUI has committed up to $250,000 per academic year to cover the cost of tuition for eligible CAHS students. IUPUI CAHS SPAN Scholarship recipients may enroll in up to 18 credit hours tuition-free at IUPUI through the SPAN Division during their junior and senior years of high school at CAHS. This represents a scholarship of approximately $5,000 per student. Scholarship recipients have successfully completed 4,081 credit hours at the IUPUI campus. IUPUI also offers additional resources, including speakers who can come to high school classes or professors who can work with high school teachers.
Since 2010 (the first graduating cohort), a total of 317 IUPUI CAHS Scholarship recipients have graduated high school. A total of 50 scholars have earned college degrees, 30 of which are from IUPUI and IU, and 138 are currently enrolled in college.
But since the program was started, significant changes have been made within Indianapolis Public Schools, including the closing of three high schools causing enrollment at Crispus Attucks High School to more than double.
With those changes in mind, leadership of the program that partners IUPUI and Crispus Attucks met recently to see how else the university can better help the school.
Dr. Khaula Murtadha who was at the signing of the 2007 MOU noted, “Consistent leadership on the part of Crispus Attucks’ principal, Lauren Franklin, has made a difference in this partnership as well as our IUPUI leadership. Franklin’s commitment stems, in part, from her experiences as culturally competent educator and a family lineage of graduates from the School. For our part, IUPUI is serving an anchor institution in the community and with that comes an unwavering responsibility of support.”
George Sims, assistant principal at Crispus Attucks, said he would like to see the school’s relationship with IUPUI continue to grow in multiple ways.
“We would like to see more students with an interest in applying to IUPUI SPAN. We would like to see more teachers taking advantage of the partnership and invite more guest speakers to come in to meet with our students,” Sims said.
As their student body continues to grow and enroll, he would like to see more resources offered to Crispus Attucks students, including giving freshman an idea of what to expect in college, all with the goal of better preparing their students for success in college, Sims said.
“Our partnership with IUPUI makes higher education accessible to our students. It demystifies the college experience and shows our students that it is possible for them to attend,” Sims said.
For Kayla, who is now enrolled as a health sciences major at IUPUI and a mentor in the SPAN Division, that was exactly what the program did for her, she said. She graduated high school with 18 credit hours, and will be graduating college in May, with plans to start graduate school, also at IUPUI.
She has seen firsthand how the program better prepares students for college, not only through earning credits, but also by being in actual college classes, she said.
And as a mentor, she gets to help students just like her through the IUPUI CAHS SPAN Scholarship Initiative.
“Since I also was once in their shoes, being a high school student and taking classes at IUPUI, I am able to relate to them on various levels. I honestly love working with the students, and SPAN allows students to develop academically and turn into scholars,” Kayla said.