University President Dr. Bob Fisher announced at a press conference Tuesday 25 students at Nashville public schools will be eligible to receive full scholarships to attend Belmont in the fall after attending a summer immersion program to prepare for a collegiate setting.
The scholarships, jointly called the Bridges to Belmont program, will be split between high school seniors at Maplewood and Stratford high schools who show promise and potential, but may not be initially show interest or be able to afford tuition at the university.
Fisher said the program, which will start next fall, provided a major opportunity for the school to adequately serve in the Nashville community.
“It was time for us to either put up or shut up with changing our community and public schools,” he said.
Before enrolling in the fall, students would would accepted on the condition of competing an intensive summer program that would focus on improving their quantitative reasoning, writing, speaking and research skills.
“The opportunity to attend Belmont tuition-free, as well as participate in the summer transition program, is a tremendous example of how the community can and does support our schools and our students,” said Dr. Jesse Register, director of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, in a statement. “Belmont is a great partner for Metro Schools, and today’s announcement is another example of how this partnership is bringing lasting benefits to individual students and our community.”
For the first year of Bridges to Belmont, students in a college prep curriculum and with strong recommendations would be eligible in the two schools. The program could eventually be expanded to other schools in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Most of the students identified for the program are economically disadvantaged and wouldn’t have the chance to consider Belmont without it, said Dr. Mike Steele, principal of Stratford STEM Magnet High School.
“This gift, this amazing gift, is an opportunity of a lifetime for these students, and I am thrilled for our students,” he said in a statement.
Belmont officials also touted the program as one that would bring more local students to the university. After being widely considered a local schools for much of its history, 74 percent of students now at Belmont are from out of state.
“For us to have a top-quality private institution invested in our students is an amazing opportunity,” Register said at the Tuesday event.
For Fisher, the new initiative is a personal one. He said he was a product of someone else giving him a chance and that the program was a privilege the school had to give that chance to someone else.
“We’re not going to disappointment them,” he said. “That is our commitment.”
Photo Courtesy Andrea Hallgren/Belmont University
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