Writing program at the U inspires teens to go to college

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Research shows one of the most effective ways to ensure students go to college is to simply get them on campus. The University of Utah has developed a partnership that accomplishes that and boosts literacy.

High schoolers taking part in the Stegner Young Writing Scholars' Institute are writing for fun on their summer vacation.

Tenth grader Christian Zuniga said, "'Cause in the summer, I really don't do that much, just have a vacation and the rest is just hang out at home."

Educators in the Salt Lake School District hand picked participants, hoping to boost writing and reading.

Sharon Adamson, coordinator of language arts for the district, said, "It's a high end of literacy development. The more you read, the more it informs your writing; the more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the more you have to bring to your writing."

There is an important reason the classes aren't held at Salt Lake high schools. They provide the students bus, TRAX and shuttle passes, whatever it takes to get them to the U of U campus.

"They wanted to bring it to the campus, so that you expose kids to what campus life was like and what the opportunities were there," Adamson said.

Monica Ferguson, with the U's center for reading and literacy, said, "It is very important for students to have a user-friendly attitude for the university, and many of them would be first generation university students."

Researchers there know what the Kellogg Foundation and others have documented--a positive experience on a university campus greatly enhances the likelihood that a student will go to college. It's on campus that they see possibilities and make connections.

Eleventh grader Pauline Williams said, "The teachers here, the staff is amazing, they really care about you."

Thanks to the program, many of the students involved, who might not have even gone to college, will plan ahead and have writing skills that help them succeed.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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