New Class of Chesick Scholars Shares Research
This year’s 15 scholars capped their five-week summer session with a symposium on identity formation and social reproduction.
“What I’m about to say is going to blow your mind,” said 2017 Chesick Scholar Eniola Ajao ’21 as she began her presentation on the wrongful exploitation of juvenile offenders’ criminal records. Ajao began her discussion on juvenile offenders referencing the A&E’s 2011 television show Beyond Scared Straight, a series on frightening “at-risk” children into better behavior. She argued that fear tactics and punishment for juvenile offenders only reinforces barriers to upward social mobility.
Ajao’s presentation was just one of 15 at this summer's Chesick Symposium on July 27. The forum featured a series of panels at which the incoming class of Chesick Scholars presented their research from their summer courses. The Chesick Scholars program is a four-year academic mentoring and leadership program for exceptional students from underrepresented or under-resourced backgrounds. The six-year-old program, named for the late Professor of Chemistry John Chesick, begins with a five-week residential summer session prior to the start of students' first year. Last week's symposium marked the culmination of that session and the work that the scholars undertook in their two summer classes.
“There is a consistent impressive nature to Chesick Scholars,” says Jeff Tecosky-Feldman, senior lecturer of mathematics and statistics and director of program. “Students go on to become very active on campus. There is a lot of Chesick presence in student leadership.”
A strong sense of leadership was just one of the qualities apparent in the vibrant 2017 cohort assembled at the symposium. The participants had already become a close-knit group of friends and were full of encouragement for one another.
Themes of storytelling, identity formation, and social reproduction (when repeated negative feedback prevents upward social mobility) underpinned the students’ presentations. Ernest Keefer ’21, a Chesick Scholar from Rochester, N.Y., spoke about belief and its centrality to the beginnings of Quaker education. Elle James ’21, a Chesick Scholar from D.C., spoke about the power of language in shaping identity and empowering upward social mobility while describing the way her mother told stories of her grandparents’ love of learning.
“This was a process of discovery,” said Theresa Tensuan, associate dean of the College, dean of diversity, access, and community engagement, director of Multicultural Affairs, and one of the course instructors for the Chesick summer program. “It was very much one in which I’ve had an opportunity to share some of the work I do as a scholar, but I was [also] very much a student at all points.”
For the Chesick Scholars, pre-college coursework is designed to help prepare them for their upcoming first year at Haverford. Oscar Melendez ’21 and Marly Banatte ’21 said that it was a chance to practice important skills of time management and personal scheduling. Others, like June Hoang ’21 and Steven Puac ’21, said that learning about resources on campus, such as the help Lead Research and Instruction Librarian Margaret Schaus can offer, was really useful.
But most of all, the Chesick Scholars Program was an opportunity for the incoming students to forge their own academic identities and create a support group of friends. Addison Conn ’20, a scholar from last year's cohort and a resident assistant for this year, said that during the school year, he was “definitely more successful with the support of 15 friends” he made in the program.
“[The Chesick Symposium] is indeed an expression of [the program’s] core mission,” said President Kim Benston in his introduction of the scholars, "which is to elevate and celebrate our young people not only as students but as scholars, not only as consumers but as producers of knowledge."