Show-Me Scholars inspires students to make the most of high school

Jacob2High school seniors are often stereotyped as lacking motivation, having a tendency to “lose” their homework and stacking their semesters with easy classes.

But Luke Walker had no time for any of that during his senior year. He was too busy studying College Algebra and AP European History.

“I wanted to go to college, so I challenged myself academically,” said Walker, a 2015 Rolla High School graduate. “That’s why I gravitated towards those classes, so I would be prepared for college.”

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Luke Walker

In addition, Walker’s ambitious high school career earned him a unique distinction — he graduated as a Show-Me Scholar.

The Show-Me Scholars program is a statewide effort to encourage Missouri students to take more difficult courses during high school. Students sign up for the program in eighth grade and pledge to complete at least 16.5 credit hours of high-value classes.

“We plug really hard to get our kids to sign up for it,” said Kimberly Maskrey, school counselor at Rolla High School. “We try to instill in our kids that they need to take a college-prep program in high school so that if they decide to go to college, or even if they go to work, that they’re ready.”

Show-Me Scholars is administered by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. At a local level, the program relies on collaboration between school districts and their business communities.

In Rolla, the local chamber of commerce has rallied the business community in support of Show-Me Scholars.

Business leaders make presentations to Rolla’s eighth-graders about the importance of success in high school and encourage students to sign up to be Show-Me Scholars. Then, in high school, the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce hosts juice and doughnut receptions to connect with Show-Me Scholars participants and encourage others to consider joining.

“It helps these students become more prepared for life after high school, to enter the workforce,” said Robin Southern, membership director at the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce. “Not everyone is college-bound, so obviously the more prepared they can be leaving high school, the better it’s going to be for them.”

Rolla’s program culminates each April when the city’s Show-Me Scholars graduates are bused to a special chamber luncheon. They are recognized and applauded by more than 200 parents and business leaders as they share their future plans.

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Collette and Luke Walker

Collette Walker, Luke’s mom, said it was wonderful to watch as Luke and his Show-Me Scholars classmates were celebrated by the community.

“Everyone from the business community was at that luncheon and got to see what the kids have in store,” she said. “It was a pretty great moment of pride. I knew a lot of those kids and have watched them grow up. It was just a great feeling to hear what plans they have in place and what they are going to do.”

With such strong community involvement, it’s easy to see why Show-Me Scholars is expanding in Rolla. The city had a record-breaking 71 graduates from the program in 2016.

The Missouri Chamber is eager to see more school districts join the program and share in this success. AT&T is helping support growth in the program by providing $10,000 in scholarships to Show-Me Scholars graduates in 2017.

“It’s a critical program because it addresses one of the most important issues we’re facing in Missouri today: ensuring our high school graduates are ready for either college or the workforce,” said Ryan Stauffer, director of workforce and education policy for the Missouri Chamber.

Having just completed his first year at Lindenwood University, Luke Walker said his hard work in high school paid off.

“The first semester of college was easier than my last semester of high school,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy senior year, but it helped prepare me for college a lot.”

He encouraged other students to take the Show-Me Scholars path as well.

“If they challenge themselves in high school, they’re going to do awesome in college,” he said.

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