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Drake to host 50 Des Moines-area students for Wanda Everage Academic Success Symposium

August 2, 2016

Fifty Des Moines-area teenagers will participate in a week-long symposium to discuss the unique challenges that students of color face when preparing for college. They’ll hear from experts uniquely qualified to speak on the topic—including their classmates.

The Wanda Everage Academic Success Symposium, sponsored by Nationwide Insurance Company and the Drake University School of Education, includes daily activities on Drake’s campus from Sunday, Aug. 7, to Friday, Aug. 12.

Each session will be led by two Des Moines high school students and one Drake University graduate student, who balance academic theory with the lived experience of Des Moines-area youth. It’s part of an effort to energize students to motivate their peers to pursue challenging academic tracks, overcome stereotypes, and enroll in higher education.

“We know that students of color, in Des Moines Public Schools and around the country, are pursuing advanced placement courses, college preparatory courses, and enrolling in higher education at a rate lower than white students,” said Petra Lange, a former Roosevelt High School teacher who joined Drake’s School of Education faculty in 2015 as Special Projects Coordinator. “Drake is committed to partnering with DMPS to help address those disparities, and to meet the district’s goal of becoming a national model of urban education."

Participants come from four of the five high schools in the Des Moines Public Schools district: East, Lincoln, North, and Roosevelt, and from five of the district’s middle schools: Callanan, Brody, Merrill, Weeks, Goodrell, and Cowles.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Embracing strengths and learning from weaknesses
  • Time-management and decision-making—skills for improving personal responsibility
  • Note-taking and study skills
  • Academic and career planning
  • Overcoming stereotype threats

“A lot of students, not just at Roosevelt but across Des Moines Public Schools, are low-income, and a good majority of them don’t think much about their future after high school,” said Merna Mohamed, a 2016 Roosevelt High School graduate and incoming first-year student at Drake. “Nobody pushes them to take AP classes or to think about college. This symposium will share skills that benefit them not just in high school but later on, too.”

Presenters include organizers of C.O.R.E. for Advancement, a student-led group at Roosevelt High School that unites strong leaders within the school in support of students of color pursuing college-level courses. Lange helped establish C.O.R.E. (Community of Racial Equity) last year before joining the Drake faculty; Mohamed was a facilitator for the program.

The symposium is named after Wanda Everage, a Drake alumna with deep ties to the University and to Des Moines Public Schools. Everage worked for 24 years at Drake University, retiring in 2012 as Drake’s vice provost for student affairs and academic excellence. Prior to joining Drake she was a middle school teacher, central office administrator, and vice principal at Roosevelt High School.

Everage will deliver the keynote lecture at the symposium at 9:15 a.m. Friday, Aug. 12.