Program History (Who We Are):
In 1998, a group of five freshman teachers felt the desire to create for their students a more academically challenging and personally meaningful academic experience. They brought together the most motivated and capable students and created a curriculum of advanced study that integrated an increased amount of instruction using computer technology. They also sought to incorporate experiences from outside the classroom: field trips to cultural institutions, volunteer work at food depositories, and working with athletes in the Special Olympics. Since then, the program has expanded to include nearly 500 students, a third of the population at Von Steuben. At its heart, the Scholars Program was born, is maintained, and continues to develop as a community. We’re not as much a what as we are a who. We’re an expanding group of teachers and students. We’re a collection of questions and an open conversation that seeks to make our experience of the world, and the learning we do in it, one of growth, one of challenge and one of joy.
Program philosophy (What We Believe):
It is the belief of the Scholars Program that each student should be engaged in developing a web of overlapping awarenesses. They should develop an academic awareness that values independent scholarship and is driven by a curiosity for knowledge and understanding. They should gain a social awareness stemming from interaction with diverse points of view and from the bonds that develop in a tight knit, caring community. And they should develop an aesthetic awareness that values the beauty, the struggle, the risks and the rewards of a life well lived. Scholars students are pushed to see themselves not simply as successful participants in a global society but more so as the active agents of it. We see the graduates of this program as the civic leaders who not only enjoy the benefits of an egalitarian, democratic society, but further, as the individuals who maintain it, the caretakers and the watchguards, the scientists and the philanthropists, the heroes large and small who see it as their mission to improve the lives not just of the few but of the many.
Program Successes (What We Achieve):
Graduates of the program are winning Gates and Posse scholarships, attending Northwestern and Cornell among other top universities, and widening the horizons of possible achievement for every student studying at Von. Students in the program are part of tight knit social network that begins freshman year with a community building through a retreat. Throughout their time in the program, students are exposed to a wide variety of intellectual and social pursuits that happen both beyond and in connection with their classrooms. They collaborate with college professors and working poets to publish an annual literary journal, Ricochet Review. They attend guest lectures hosted at Von Steuben as well as at The University of Chicago. They compete in athletics and academic clubs, bringing home awards for Math Tournaments, Science Fairs, Academic Decathlon, and Policy Debate. They travel to Europe and Asia. They make friends. They have fun. They learn about life.