The W.E.B DuBois Scholars Institute, founded by Dr. Sherle Boone in the 1980s, was created with the intention of providing minority students with the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest minds of our time.
The institute gives students a taste of the life of a college student: living in a dorm, attending rigorous courses based on a chosen major and completing assignments that challenge the student’s mind. Through attending these rigorous courses, students learn time management and other skills that will prepare them for college and the workforce.
The institute is divided into three separate groups based on age: pre-scholars, scholars and the talented tenth. Pre-scholars, grades eight and nine, are the youngest students in the institute. The experience a rigorous curriculum that challenges their young minds. Scholars, grades ten to eleven, are allowed to choose majors to study at the institute (neuroscience, engineering, business, etc.), and they have longer school days, more rigorous courses and a heavier workload than the pre-scholars. The talented tenth are 10 selected returning students.
The talented tenth, a term developed by W.E.B DuBois himself, is a group of the most intelligent students, who have proved their worth and talents in the years that they spent at the institute. They do not study one major, but instead study a variety of challenging courses, ranging from computer programming to sociology.
As a former W.E.B DuBois Scholar, I can tell you that the program is life changing. Three summers of my childhood life were dedicated to expanding my knowledge in all facets of life, including the history of my culture. Besides learning from the most influential teachers, I was able to create relationships with other intelligent students, students who were motivated to do well and overcome the limitations that society has placed on them.
When asked about the significance of programs such as the W.E.B DuBois Scholars Institute in the lives of minority students, Boone said, “It’s important for our kids to be at Dubois because . . . Dubois has a focus on trying to make some fundamental changes in Black life. That is to say, I seek to transform our culture in a manner in which, for the most part, no one will argue that African-Americans have contributed to the evolving of the arts. We have not viewed ourselves collectively as having had an impact on scholarship. We don’t take any ownership as a larger community. We take too little, if any, in scholarship. We take ownership in sports, we take ownership in the arts. But we don’t take ownership of scholarship. Consequently, our scholarship, particularly among our youth, and I think that’s where we have to start, is not the norms. It’s the exception to the norms, and I want to see a shift.”
Boone was also asked to share the things that sparked his interest in creating the institute. Specifically, what were the factors that made it blatantly clear that a program of this capacity was needed in contemporary society? He said, “That transition was a period where there was a great deal of tension, between white America and Black America. Yet at the same time as this transition was happening within the context of the ethnic conflict, you also had a class clash that was evolving. This shift then meant a lot. It meant that there was a disconnect between the Black professionally trained and those who were arguably the needy. So you have all of that happening, and that tells you that when you transition into an integrated society, then it means that the leadership is going to have to be different. We are going to have to program our kids in a way that they are going to evolve in a different kind of world, then the world that we [older generations] evolved in. What are we doing as Black people to do that?”
If you are interested in attending the W.E.B DuBois Scholars Institute, visit http://duboisscholars.org.