North Central News

Junior/Senior Scholars program awarded grant for development

Jun 13, 2018

The North Central College Junior/Senior Scholars program (JSS) will enter its 31st year on the strength of a three-year, $45,000 grant from the Driskill Foundation to support development of its academic programs in the arts and sciences.

Driskill has been discussing a partnership for over a year, according to Janis Fitzsimmons, executive director of North Central’s Urban Education Laboratory and founder of JSS.

“They visited our summer program on our parent day and loved the kinds of learning that we were engaging kids in,” said Fitzsimmons. “Since then we’ve continued our conversation to see whether or not we could do a partnership.”

Funding from the foundation will allow JSS to expand its approach to helping college students provide educational opportunities to children in high needs schools.

“Every partnership is very important, because we really depend on them to help us continue the program, grow and develop it, and get better at what we’re doing,” said Fitzsimmons. “While we get some very good results, we could always do better. We ask, ‘How can we better prepare our promise teachers—our young people who are going out into high need schools—to disperse all the things that they learn here?’”

The Driskill Foundation was originally founded to support medical research and treatment, and seeks to expand opportunities for children to learn and create. “Driskill has identified ‘keys to curiosity’ as a centerpiece for their foundation,” Fitzsimmons said. “We certainly do a lot with inquiry and science, so we’re really going to develop that piece of our program.”

JSS has been expanding the program’s pedagogy as well as the depth of the program’s involvement in schools, so the funding from the foundation comes at a welcome and critical time.

“This grant will give us an opportunity to concentrate on a different aspect of education, especially in high needs schools, where the focus tends to be on closing the academic achievement gap,” Fitzsimmons said. “This is an opportunity to engage our kids in critical thinking in academics but also through the arts—thinking creatively and problem-solving, which is what we pride ourselves on.”

A JSS student working with children at an elmentary school.