School club helps Skyline student earn $200,000 in scholarships

Skyline High senior Michael Sussman was making minimum wage at the Idaho Falls Sonic when he decided to quit and “focus more on school.” His scholastic efforts paid off: two years after leaving Sonic, he received over $200,000 in college scholarships.

“I pulled a few all-nighters studying,” he said.

Sussman will graduate from Skyline on Thursday, the recipient of four major scholarships, including a national Naval ROTC award, which alone will cover the roughly $120,000 needed for him to complete Oregon State University’s nuclear engineering program.

Sussman credits part of his scholastic success to a school club designed to push students academically: the “Provectis Via Scholars,” which was started three years ago.

The club’s goal is to promote college and career readiness by encouraging students to take challenging courses, such as AP, honors or dual enrollment classes – even if it means getting a B rather than an A in an easier class. Club advisors challenge students to take at least 10 such classes during their time in the program. Sussman completed 17.

He and 15 of this year’s senior club members represent the school’s first class of Provectis Via graduates.

“It’s been great watching them learn and be challenged during the last three years,” said English teacher and club adviser Kristina Batalden, who added that the success of this year’s graduating group proves there’s more to scholastic success than getting good grades.

“We want students to know that you can be well prepared for college, even if your GPA isn’t perfect – you just need to challenge yourself,” Batalden said.

Club graduate and senior Joe Carey completed 14 AP honors or dual enrollment courses during his time in the club. The challenging coursework, he said, outweighs the hit his GPA took as a result of the program.

“My GPA is right around a 3.7,” Carey said, “but I feel a lot more prepared for college because of the club.”

Carey also quit a job in order to fulfill the club’s requirements, eventually earning a Western Undergraduate Exchange scholarship, which will cover $21,000 of his bachelors degree at Montana State University.

Graduates will receive honor cords for their accomplishments during graduation ceremonies – recognition that Betalden believes will have a lasting impact on the club’s future.

“It’s the culmination they have been waiting for,” she said.  “I think the students were also able to see that, often, the reaching of a goal and the reasons for continuing on a challenging path of coursework is rewarding.”

Batalden estimates that 70-75 students will take part in the program next year.

Projects via students at Skyline High School
Skyline’s Provictus Via Scholars club
Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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