July 29, 2003 | By: Ag. Comm. Intern

Eighteen urban youth boarded a yellow school bus to prepare for an intriguing ride into the hills of east Kentucky Friday July 11. Along the way they passed little towns like Jackson, antique shops, and a few general stores. They also passed what, to the untrained eye, seemed to be just endless streams of green hills. Soon however, they met people like Carroll Fackler, University of Kentucky Wood Utilization Center  superintendent, who explained just how much these green hills mean to Kentucky.

Fackler and other professionals working at UK's Robinson Station met high school juniors who also happen to be the Whitney M. Young Scholars. This is a non-profit Louisville based organization that focuses on the educational enrichment of talented urban youth who come from socio-economically disadvantaged families. The motto of the Whitney M. Young Scholars is “Overcoming adversity through education.” So naturally the high school juniors, as a part of their curriculum, must visit a college campus during the summer. This is the first time the group visited UK. 

The Whitney M. Young Scholars spend time on each campus they visit, taking several classes a day, and experiencing many colleges within each university. When the University of Kentucky was selected as the host of this year’s retreat, a panel of UK professors and advisors suggested with great fervor that the group make the College of Agriculture a stop on its tour of the university.

“I think that part of our responsibility at the university is really to expose the students to all the vast variety of majors,” said Lauretta F. Byars provost associate, UK office for multicultural and academic affairs, in reference to the collaboration.

There is no doubt the College of Agriculture was eager to show to these urban youth, the many opportunities available to agriculture majors.  The College gave the prospective students a hands-on, two-day adventure in the Robinson Forest Field Station. While at the Field Station the youth took tours and hikes, and saw many of the research projects conducted at the Robinson site. Their tour guides were also eager to connect these research projects to the real world, and real world employment opportunities for the Young Scholars.   

Roselyn White, the Whitney M. Young Scholars coordinator of student affairs, was happy to see the emphasis on hands-on activities.

“Anything out side the normal classroom is always good for them (the students); because it makes it exciting and when you are excited you learn more,”  she said.

The scholars were given tangible instruction in areas they normally would never get to see on a typical college tour.  The youth were taught methods in measuring water quality, and tree growth along strip mines. In addition to their tour of Robinson, the high school students were taken to nearby Hazard by  Carolyn Carter graduate development specialist at the teaching and learning center. 

While in Hazard, the Young Scholars set upon a simulated journey to Mars as apart of a tour of The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky. They got to simulate many real life space roles such as life support and communications. The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky is one of many educational centers set up in memoriam of the challenger astronauts by their families. 

Byars knows how important an introduction to something new can be for entering college students. 

”I know from experience that many students enter the university with majors that they have selected without really knowing the totality or the range of majors offered here at the university,” she said.

The scholar's stay at Robinson forest went extremely well and the tour guides had great things to say about the students who visited. It seems the eighteen urban youth have truly had their eyes opened to the wonderful possibilities presented by those endless streams of green. 

When Byars was asked if she would recommend more activities like this one presented by the College of Agriculture to urban youth from around the state she said “I would strongly recommend it”.  

“They will better understand what we mean when we talk about the university as a research institution," she added.

This partnership is a win-win situation between all parties involved. The College of Agriculture gets to recruit some of the best and brightest rising seniors in the state, and aspiring students receive a sneak peek at college life and all it truly has to offer.

The Whitney M. Young Scholars are affiliates of Kentucky’s own Lincoln Foundation. The foundation’s namesake, the Lincoln Institute, was an internationally known, historically black boarding school for high school students during the first half of the 20th century, located in Simpsonville, Kentucky (about 20 miles outside of Louisville, Ky.).

Whitney M. Young Sr. was the first African American president of the Lincoln institute, and Whitney M. Young Jr. was a prominent civil rights activist for the commonwealth and also served as president of the National Urban League. Send inquiries to 200 West Broadway, Suite 500 Louisville, KY 40202


Writer: Desiree' Jones 859-257-4736, ext. 284

Source: Lauretta F. Byars