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They Have a Dream

The Rutgers Future Scholars program matriculates its first class of college students.

Rutgers Future Scholars Jason Gaines and Yauris Hernandez
Rutgers Future Scholars Jason Gaines and Yauris Hernandez, who appeared on the cover of the Fall 2009 issue of Rutgers Magazine, are first-year students at Rutgers today. Photography by Nick Romanenko

A bold experiment in education began in 2008 when Rutgers launched its Rutgers Future Scholars program. The idea was simple, and ambitious: identify 200 promising, but underserved, seventh graders attending public schools in the cities that host Rutgers campuses—Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Piscataway—mentor and tutor each of them assiduously for the next five years of their studies, beginning in eighth grade, and then offer them a tuition-free college education—that is, if they were able to gain admission to Rutgers.

And they were able, indeed. Of the 183 students who made up the first class of Rutgers Scholars, 163 of them enrolled in post-secondary institutions, 98 of them with full scholarships to Rutgers. It’s an acceptance rate that beats the state high school graduation rate, notes Courtney McAnuff, one of the architects of the program and vice president for enrollment management at Rutgers. Aramis Gutierrez, the director of the program, sees the scholars success as validation of what guidance and hard work will bring—and as an inspiring example for the faculty, students, staff, and alumni who had big roles in the students’ achievement.

In November, Rutgers Future Scholars hosted Mission Possible: Transforming the Future Through College Access, a three-day symposium that attracted education professionals as well as representatives from public universities located in cities nationwide to learn why innovative outreach strategies can make dreams come true for underserved students, all of whom represent the first generation in their family to attend college.