Sikeston students attending Missouri Scholars Academy

Thursday, June 11, 2015

COLUMBIA -- The University of Missouri is hosting more than 300 of the top Missouri high school students, including three from Southeast Missouri, at the Missouri Scholars Academy (MSA) through June 27.

During the program, Malik Barnett and Julius Hoang, students at Sikeston High School, along with Mikayla Smith, who attends Puxico High School, will join other students from across the state to participate in a comprehensive educational experience that will encourage the gifted students to embrace their intellects and challenge themselves academically.

"All of the activities at the Academy are designed to be broadening and enriching," said first-year director Steven Keller, associate director of the MU Honors College. "In their hometown high schools, many of these students get the message that being smart isn't cool. But, here at the Missouri Scholars Academy, we want to encourage these talented students to own their intelligence and inspire them to put it to good use. In particular, we hope to get students to engage in activities that are outside their comfort zones and push themselves past arbitrary limits they might have subconsciously set for themselves."

MSA began in 1985 and provides students unique opportunities to expand their educational and social skills. This year, students will spend their days in intensive classroom settings, studying one of four individually selected subjects--including mathematics, science, social studies and humanities. Each Missouri high school is allowed to nominate one junior-to-be for the academy; larger schools may nominate more. Students represent nearly every county in the state.

Outside the classroom, students participate in a series of activities, workshops and discussions led by guest speakers from around the country. This year, author and speaker Tim Wise will lead activities designed to engage students with issues of class, inequality and racism. Other guests include Missouri documentary filmmaker Mark Norwine, Hedy Epstein a Holocaust survivor and Linda Godwin, former astronaut and current professor of physics at MU. Students will have the option to watch a dress rehearsal of the Missouri Symphony Society, participate in a conservation-themed trip down the Missouri River, and attend a presentation and discussion on digital privacy.

MSA participants are among the top 0.5% of Missouri students academically. One goal of the academy is to have attendees leave with the understanding that they have a responsibility to share their talents with others for the betterment of their local communities. Many MSA alumni participate in programs such as Teach for America, Peace Corps or other nonprofit organizations. MSA alumni also continue to succeed academically. Of those who are old enough, 98 percent of Academy alumni have graduated from high school, 90 percent have graduated from college and nearly 2,500 alumni have earned graduate or professional degrees.

For more than 20 years, MSA was fully funded by the state legislature. In 2009, state budget cuts required that funds be covered by the state, the University of Missouri, and a student activity fee charged to the attending scholars. This year, the Missouri legislature has again provided full funding for the Academy..