three men and one woman seated at a table wearing masks

Chancellor Austin A. Lane (second from left) and Arnett Harvey (left), Cahokia Unit School District 187 superintendent, show an agreement that will provide mentoring and educational opportunities, summer camps and potential scholarships for junior high and high school students in the district. With Lane and Harvey were Illinois state Sen. Christopher Belt (second from right) and state Rep. LaToya Greenwood (right). (Photo provided)

October 20, 2021

SIU Carbondale to provide educational opportunities for Cahokia junior high, high school students

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — An agreement between Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Cahokia School District No. 187 will provide mentoring and educational opportunities, summer camps and collaboration between the university and the school district.

SIU Chancellor Austin A. Lane and Cahokia Unit School District No. 187 Superintendent Arnett Harvey signed a memorandum of agreement during an Oct. 1 ceremony at Cahokia High School.

Chancellor Austin Lane said the agreement fits well with the university’s Imagine 2030 strategic plan, which includes pillars to improve student success and enhance partnerships.

“Cahokia School District 187 has a passion for access to higher education, and so do we at SIU Carbondale,” he said. “We are excited to collaborate with Cahokia and show future Salukis our commitment to access and support as well as the unique academic opportunities and personal attention they will receive on our beautiful campus. Between the quality of programs offered by both SIU Carbondale and SIU Edwardsville, students in District 187 will have an abundance of options.”

This is SIU’s fourth agreement this year with a school district or youth organization. It is similar to those with Carbondale Elementary School District No. 95, Girls Inc. of St. Louis and East St. Louis School District 189.

Agreement contains several features

Serving Cahokia, Cahokia Heights and Sauget, Cahokia Unit School District No. 187 comprises Cahokia High School, Cahokia Middle School for grade 6-8, and six elementary schools for pre-K to grade 5. The district also offers an alternative program for students in grades 6-12. The district has 3,079 students, including 841 in the high school and 650 in the middle school.

The Illinois School Report Card for 2020 shows 89.5% of district students are Black, 4.9% are white and 1.7% Hispanic, and 92.2% are low-income students. All students in the district receive free breakfast and lunch.

The agreement involving students in the Cahokia district includes:

  • SIU will provide virtual or in-person educational and mentoring opportunities for Cahokia students in any academic areas of interest.
  • School district students will have opportunities to attend summer camps on campus.
  • An admissions coordinator will speak in person or virtually to students and their families regarding SIU admissions.
  • High school sophomores through seniors can participate in SIU Day opportunities, including shadowing SIU students, attending classes as guests and touring the campus.
  • Providing opportunities and materials for Cahokia School District students who enroll at SIU to return to the district to serve as mentors and discuss their SIU experiences.
  • SIU will work to establish scholarship opportunities for School District 187 students who meet established criteria.
  • High school seniors in the program will receive a personal visit from the SIU chancellor during the fall of their senior year.
  • SIU staff will explore opportunities for collaboration with the school district under the Illinois Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, including college and career pathway endorsements.

“With this agreement, we are planting the seeds early and encouraging students to imagine what a college education at a doctoral research university can provide for them, and we back that up with real resources,” Lane said. “Students who qualify can take advantage of the Saluki Commitment – our pledge to close financial gaps in tuition. They won’t need to worry about SAT or ACT scores – we don’t require them for admission or scholarships. If they are the first in their families to attend college, our First Saluki Center is there to support them.”

Believes collaboration will grow

Harvey, the Cahokia district superintendent, believes the collaboration will be beneficial to the district and the university.

“I'm extremely excited and hopeful that our collaboration with SIU Carbondale will expand over the next several years, creating a pipeline of opportunity for our students who might otherwise be overlooked,” he said. “In addition, the university’s educational offerings will be better understood by our students over time.

“This agreement will be a great asset for students who truly desire to seek higher education and for many who may not have engaged as well during their high school years. Maturity blossoms late for some, but their desire for career opportunities will be expanded by our relationship with SIU Carbondale.”

Joining Lane in the ceremony from SIU were Paul Frazier, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion; Wendell Williams, associate chancellor for enrollment management; Marc Morris, associate provost for academic administration, and Linda Baker, university professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Joining the ceremony from the Cahokia school district were Peggy Shelton, Cahokia school board president; Curtis McCall Jr., assistant superintendent of educational services; Gegi Ra-El, assistant superintendent of instruction; Stephanie Scurlark-Belt, director of non-certified personnel; Tiffany Pearce, chief business officer/recruitment; Anson Mitchell and Demario Bell, Cahokia High School associate principals; high school counselors and several students. Illinois state Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Swansea, and state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, also attended the ceremony.