Avila Now

November 8, 2017

Avila University’s “Grow Your Own” Program Mentors Future Educators

Hickman Mills School District Logo

UPDATE (April 2019): Avila’s Grow Your Own program is now being offered in both the Hickman-Mills and Turner School Districts. As part of this program, Avila is also annually offering two, four-year, full-tuition scholarships to participants. 

(November 8, 2017) KANSAS CITY, MO – A group of eight Hickman Mills School District seniors from Ruskin High School are participating in a new program designed by Avila University’s School of Education faculty. Bradley Poos, Ph.D., Avila assistant professor of education and lead faculty for the “Grow Your Own” program, is hoping to expose local students to teaching methods and cultivate an interest in becoming teachers. The ultimate goal is that one day these “Grow Your Own” students will return to teach in the Hickman Mills district, a district that is in need of teachers.

The students will receive six college credits from Avila University when they participate in the “Grow Your Own” sequence of classes. The first three college credits are earned from taking Introduction to Education at Ruskin High School. The remaining three credits are earned in a second semester course; Multicultural Foundations of Education, which is taught on the Avila campus.

Most of the participating students are the first in their family to have a higher education opportunity, and it is their first time being exposed to a college experience. Having these first-generation students matriculating on the Avila campus is crucial for influencing them to continue their education. Poos hopes the “Grow Your Own” program will help with students overcoming any reluctance they may have.

Although Avila would welcome the participants as education students once they finish the program, Poos is more interested in them taking the leap and attending college anywhere. The “Grow Your Own” program is completely free to the seniors participating, with Hickman Mills School District absorbing the tuition and Avila University providing the books.

“The hope is that students will one day return to teach from where they came, especially students of color,” Poos said. Poos spent his early career working with students of color and sees the Hickman Mills/Avila partnership as a good fit. The Hickman Mills student demographic is primarily African-American, and it is a cornerstone of Avila University to make higher education available to a diverse group.

An added benefit is that participants also serve as teaching assistants in various Hickman Mills classrooms throughout the year. Ruskin senior Tehya Stevenson has been helping at Symington Elementary because she is interested in teaching younger students. “Being in the classroom is fun and hands on,” Stevenson said. “Yesterday I helped a group of students prepare for a test. You get to watch them grow and progress.”

Another senior, Alawnna Duncan, prefers interacting with older students. “High school kids are our future; they will be going into the world sooner,” Duncan said.

Poos hopes to expand the program next year, inviting more school districts to participate. “More and more schools are developing specific scholastic pathways, depending on a student’s interest, whether it be STEM subjects, art, engineering and design or even teaching,” Poos said. “This model will tell us a lot after this pilot year. I am eager to see if these kids truly go into education. It all remains to be seen, but I’m encouraged so far.”

Avila University, a Catholic University sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is a values-based community of learning providing liberal arts, professional, undergraduate and graduate education to prepare students for responsible, lifelong contributions to the global community. Our approach to education brings out the best in our students, so they can bring out the best in others.

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