Tougher millennium scholarship requirement actually a misperception
September 21, 2007
Now that my daughter is a freshman at Bishop Manogue High School, conversations among parents at social gatherings have been purged of topics that hold lesser common interests and replaced by those with new and much stronger bonding elements found in family and school.
Recently, a group of friends – all of whom have children at Bishop Manogue – talked about the Millennium Scholarship. Started in 1999, the Millennium Scholarship’s objectives and the intentions of its founder were succinctly defined and supported with conviction by our esteemed former governor, Kenny Guinn. Among those intentions was to clear the path of opportunity for first-generation college students; to inspire students to reconsider continued education and to achieve academic excellence beyond the worries of not being able to afford college; and, to keep our brightest and most willing students here in Nevada. But many parents have recently questioned the solidarity of those original objectives and intentions.
What urgently prompted the doubt was a letter from Bishop Manogue High School, (mis)informing parents that pre-algebra was no longer allowed as an eligibility criterion to attain the Millennium Scholarship. Admittedly, I was positioned to pounce on the Board of Regents, especially after hearing that many students were doubling up on higher level math to comply with the new eligibility criteria. I was ready to say, “why not just give the students lead boots to wear and require them to finish a mile race in 10 minutes?” I wonder if those who sit on the Board of Regents ever had to double up on algebra and perform under the immense pressure to retain eligibility for a scholarship while maintaining the will to continue on to college? But Jane Nichols, vice chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs for the Nevada System of Higher Education, clarified for me what was inaccurately perceived by me and others.
She explained that because of “bad information” being circulated, many parents are confusing the eligibility criteria for the Millennium Scholarship with the admissions criteria for, say, the University of Nevada, Reno. Pre-algebra is not applicable for admissions at UNR and probably never was. For admissions, though, three years of higher level math can include algebra I, algebra II, geometry, analytical geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus, and probability and statistics among the required courses. And because only three units (years) of higher level math are required, not allowing pre-algebra for admissions (which is universally recognized as standard among American universities) is a non-issue. It also has nothing to do with the Millennium Scholarship requisites, according to Nichols. She also explains that the Millennium Scholarship does indeed allow pre-algebra toward eligibility.
There is a thin dividing line between challenge and oppression, between application and surrender, between falling short of accomplishment with dignity and falling short and feeling the indelible despondency of failure. Scholarships are intended to honor excellence in achievement. The Millennium Scholarship was intended to do just that and help the students of Nevada. Help the students. Not burden and discourage them. To encourage them to stay in Nevada, work in Nevada, excel, prosper and raise a family and educate their own children in Nevada. That was the simple equation.
I am relieved to hear that what was thought to be unreasonable demands slammed on to the shoulders of the students is instead a misperception by many families. I hope it goes no further than just a misperception. Anything beyond reach can be made unreachable to even a bright student despite a vigorous stretch. And for those students whose arms just aren’t long enough to gain the rewards of that reach, what may have been accomplished could instead become a “Why even bother?” Great way to keep our kids here in Nevada. Great way to keep them in school. Well, maybe as school janitors and cafeteria attendants.
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Jane Nichols has graciously offered her office line at (775) 784-4901, extension 274, for anyone who would like further clarification on the Millennium Scholarship criteria.
• John DiMambro is publisher of the Appeal. You can reach him at email@example.com