In 2011, MGH renewed its commitment to the local community by creating the MGH Bicentennial Scholars Program, an initiative that supports college completion for youth who are interested in health and science careers. A total of 25 Bicentennial Scholar matriculated to post-secondary education in the fall of 2012, 19 of whom persisted in college over four years. The students – most of whom were the first in their families to attend college – received up to a $5,000 annual scholarship. Thirteen of the students will complete their college education this year, with the remaining 6 scholars slated to graduate in 2017.

Keeping students in college requires more than just financial support. The Bicentennial Scholars received support in the form of SAT prep courses, college visits, and essay writing workshops,  all sponsored by MGH. This year, thirteen members of the inaugural class will graduate from a number of area colleges and universities.

According to preliminary findings reported by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, the MGH program, in conjunction with similar initiatives at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Partners HealthCare, is succeeding in its mission of increasing the rate of Greater Boston students who attend and succeed in college. Participating students – 86% of whom are people of color and 70% of whom are the first generation in their family to attend college – scored 130 points higher on the SAT test than a comparable cohort, enrolled in college at a higher rate than their peers in Boston and statewide (97% compared to 72% and 77%, respectively) and stayed in college at a higher rate than the national average (92% compared to 70%).

Once accepted, each student received ongoing support. As with any student transitioning from high school to college, the Bicentennial Scholars struggled academically their first year needing help in time management and study skills.

To meet these needs, MGH hired Accelerated College Experiences’ coaches to keep the students on track. Many students credit their classroom persistence to individualized coaching during each college semester and internships that built on each Scholar’s field of study. The goal of all these activities is to sustain college aspirations and to promote the understanding of what it takes to enter a health or science career.

Supported by MGH with scholarships, college coaches, mentors, summer jobs and academic and career workshops, this student group has a higher rate of college persistence success, compared to those outside of the program. While urban youth are admitted to colleges at reasonably high rates, this population typically has a difficult time graduating.  A recent study by the Boston Foundation showed that many students who succeeded academically linked their success to effectively practicing self-management skills, a struggle shared by many of the Bicentennial Scholars in their first year. MGH used these findings and others to support the future scholars as they pursue their collegiate education.

Recognizing that educational attainment is one of the most important social determinants of health, MGH has partnered for more than 25 years with Boston, Chelsea and Revere public schools to provide opportunities for thousands of youth interested in health and science careers. MGH currently is supporting three more classes of college students, with a fourth class scheduled to start this fall.

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