- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida A&M; University is hoping to help raise the quality of applicants by working with students in the several Leon County high schools.

The program began Jan. 11 when students and their mentors gathered at the university for an initial session. The goal is to make sure they don’t struggle once they start college.

The Tallahassee Democrat (http://on.tdo.com/1f4EPTh ) reports that up to two dozen high school students are participating in the FAMU’s Stellar Student Program. School officials hope to expand to other parts of Florida.

The program was started by FAMU’s Interim President Larry Robinson, who believes the university can’t rely solely on school districts to prepare students for the rigors of college life.

During the fall semester, the program’s infrastructure was set in place, with coaches and mentors identified at each school.

“The interim president has made it very clear to us that he wants FAMU to be more active in cultivating talent for college,” said Mark Howse, faculty administrator for the project. “We can no longer wait on student to want to come to Florida A&M.; Our goal is to touch all of the districts in our shadows.”

Robinson has said he would like the program, which is starting in Leon County, to move to Gadsden and Jefferson counties before going statewide.

“I think this is necessary for everyone involved,” Robinson said. “The middle school and high school students need it. Their parents need it, as do the school districts. And, ultimately, Florida A&M; University needs it.”

Enrollment at the university has been dropping and officials say this is one way to reverse the trend, said Donal Palm, associate vice president for academic affairs.

Though officials hope that participants will attend FAMU, the program doesn’t limit them to the school.

Students must have a 3.0 GPA and a solid attendance record. Science, technology, engineering and math courses are emphasized, but the program is not limited to those areas.

“We wanted to help students who have already demonstrated potential, and needed support getting to the next level,” Howse said. “We also focus on the whole student development, including self-esteem and self-confidence. We pride ourselves in trying to support students from every angle.”

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Information from: Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat, http://www.tdo.com

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