UK's Robinson Scholars program revamps selection process, offerings

The University of Kentucky Robinson Scholars program, which gives full scholarships to first-generation college students from 29 Eastern Kentucky counties, has revamped its selection process and student-enrichment offerings.

Traditionally, the program selected students for scholarships as they entered ninth grade. Now, the program will select "Robinson Leaders" when they near the end of their ninth-grade year.

Robinson Leaders will go on to a variety of academic preparation activities and compete for scholarships that are awarded at the end of their junior year in high school.

Robinson coordinator Jeff Spradling said the Robinson Leaders program could accept as many as 110 students, of whom 29 eventually would become Scholars.

The Robinson scholarship provides full tuition, room and board at UK, and stipend for books. Spradling said students who do not receive the UK scholarships might be directed to schools such as Morehead State University, which is trying to build its space science program.

"This is a population that has traditionally had low college-going rates," Spradling said. "There was a desire to prepare more students, regardless of where they wanted to go to college."

Spradling said the element of competition would sharpen the focus of the Robinson students, who through the free program visit colleges and attend weekend retreats and summer camps focusing particularly on science, technology, engineering and math. Students are expected to provide community service and participate in extracurricular activities.

"There is a lot we don't know about a student when they're 13 years old," Sprad ling said. "It gives us a better chance to make a good selection of students."

The Robinson Scholars program serves students in Bell, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Estill, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Rockcastle, Whitley and Wolfe counties.