The Honors College, together with the Houston Scholar Program, invited a group of nearly 20 high school juniors to study “The Iliad” this semester at UH in a lecture and discussion program.
Students from the Knowledge is Power Program and Youth Engaged in Service prep schools will visit the University one Saturday every month for lectures led by the Honors College staff and discussions led by student mentors to help prepare them for the transition into college.
“As I was thinking about getting this program started, it was obvious that this would be a good thing to do for high school students,” said Kimberly Meyer, a professor at the Honors College who has helped envision and create the curriculum.
“Students enter into the University, but have never been asked to think or write in a certain way yet, so this is just one idea of how to ease this transition or get people thinking earlier about certain kinds of questions and doing this sort of critical thinking and engaging with critical reading.”
“The Iliad” is studied widely at the university level and is a “bridge” into the world of Western collegiate studies.
“I think they chose ‘The Iliad’ because it’s a monumental text that you can spend an entire semester working on,” said Kevin Meinhardt, a sociology and philosophy junior who is a student mentor in the program. “It also marks the beginning of the Western canon of literature, so it’s a good place to start.”
“The participating students have been chosen through an application process that narrowed 118 applicants to 18 participants,” said Jovanny Orellana, the director of the Houston Scholar Program that aims to help children from disadvantaged communities succeed academically.
“One of the major things that I see from students in college that come from underserved communities is that they really struggle in their writing and critical thinking skills. It’s not that they’re not smart — these are brilliant kids — but it’s difficult, and this program really helps with that,” Orellana said.
“It strengthens their writing so that what they learn here creatively, they’re able to apply in a lot of different areas — not just in their class and in their school, but when they’re applying for different colleges, universities and programs.”
Likewise, the high school students enjoy being able to work with student mentors in the program.
“Honestly, what I want to take away from this is more English skills because I feel like I’m not the best at it,” said Rafael Soto, a junior at the YES Prep Southwest campus.
“It gives me a boost to do better on something that I need help on, and I get to work with college students as well, whom I can connect with on a more personal level, so they really help me out with things.”