SIU to provide educational opportunities for East St. Louis students

SIU News Bureau

A new agreement between Southern Illinois University Carbondale and East St. Louis School District 189 involves mentoring and educational opportunities, summer camps and potential scholarships for District 189 students. (Photo courtesy of SIU News)

An agreement between Southern Illinois University Carbondale and East St. Louis School District 189 will provide mentoring and educational opportunities, summer camps and potential scholarships for junior high and high school students, many of whom depend on their schools to make a difference in their lives.

Chancellor Austin A. Lane on Monday, Jan. 11 signed two separate memorandums of agreement (MOAs) between SIU and East St. Louis School District 189 and with Girls Incorporated of St. Louis.

Joining Lane in the ceremonies were SIU Carbondale Director of Admissions John Frost and Associate Chancellor for Diversity Todd S. Bryson. School District 189 Supt. Arthur R. Culver and Girls Inc. President and CEO Cheryl Jones represented their organizations in East St. Louis and St. Louis, respectively. The agreement with the East St. Louis school district is similar to one with Girls Inc. announced in December.

“We look forward to welcoming more students from East St. Louis as future Salukis,” Lane said. “We will continue School District 189’s work of making a difference in students’ lives by bridging any gaps to a first-rate, hands-on education where they will receive personal attention. Between the quality of programs offered by both SIU Carbondale and SIU Edwardsville, students in the East St. Louis area will have an abundance of options giving them even more access to higher education.”

The agreement involving students in the East St. Louis district includes:

  • SIU will provide virtual or in-person educational and mentoring opportunities for East St. Louis junior high and high school students in any academic areas of interest.
  • School district students will have opportunities to attend summer camps on campus.
  • High school sophomores to seniors can participate in on-campus SIU Day opportunities such as shadowing SIU students, attending classes as guests and touring the campus.
  • Students who enroll at SIU Carbondale will have opportunities and receive materials to return to the school district and serve as mentors and discuss their SIU experiences.
  • SIU will work to establish scholarship opportunities for School District 189 students who meet established criteria. If they meet certain criteria, the students may also be eligible for the Saluki Commitment, the university’s pledge to guarantee that tuition and fees will be fully covered for eight consecutive semesters at no cost to students or families.
  • High school seniors in the program will receive a personal visit from the SIU chancellor during the fall of their senior year.
  • SIU staff will explore opportunities for collaboration with the school district under the Illinois Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, including college and career pathway endorsements.

Culver is enthusiastic about the agreement and the potential for the nearly 5,400 students who live in the district, which serves residents in East St. Louis and portions of Alcentra (formally Alorton Village and Centreville Township), Fairview Heights and Belleville, Washington Park and Caseyville. According to the 2019 Illinois School Report Card, 97.1 percent of students are African American and 1.3 percent are Hispanic.

“This strengthened partnership will provide East St. Louis students with meaningful opportunities to learn about SIU and determine if the institution and educational programs are a good fit for them,” Culver said. “Additionally, our partnership will explore creating college and career pathway endorsements that provide a continuum of educational services for students. On behalf of the School District 189 Board of Education, staff and students, I thank Chancellor Lane for realizing the value East St. Louis students can offer to SIU.”

According to city data, 64.1 percent of East St. Louis children live below the poverty level; the median household income in East St. Louis is $23,072, compared to Illinois’ $63,575. All students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Despite the challenges, the students, like their community, are vibrant, resilient and strong, Culver said.

John Frost, director of SIU Carbondale’s undergraduate admissions, is also excited for what the partnership can bring.

“The partnership with School District 189 and SIU is a natural fit for the mission of both organizations,” Frost said. “We are excited to provide hands-on opportunities for East St. Louis students, which will result in a long-lasting and fruitful partnership.”