Dr. Helen C. Cooks, creator and guiding light of TOLEDO EXCEL, saw a crack and decided promising children weren't going to slip through it anymore. "At-risk students were getting some attention. So were the gifted students. But you had this "B" group that no one was giving attention to. We saw potential there." So in 1989, 50 rising high school freshman with a B average from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education became UT's first EXCEL class.*
Since it began in 1988, TOLEDO EXCEL, a scholarship incentive program at The University of Toledo, has been striving to prepare students for success in college. EXCEL involves student members of groups under-represented in higher education–including African, Appalachian, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans–in pre-college academic programs to increase their self-esteem, cultural awareness of diversity, and civic involvement. Among EXCEL's services to high school students are Saturday School, Summer Institutes, tutoring, academic retreat weekends, campus visits, advising for strategic admissions and financial aid, and ethnographic field studies in the U.S. and abroad.
Criteria for participation in EXCEL are stringent because applications far exceed space available. EXCEL students attend annual Summer Institutes and may travel within the U.S. or to countries such as Mexico, China, Ghana, or South Africa. Student attendance at academic retreats during the year, and parental support, are required. Each student is expected to maintain at least a "B" average in his/her high school academic curriculum. EXCEL's innovative curriculum, designed to challenge students with content not closely resembling "regular" school curricula, has included The Aging Process, Ethnic America, Global Cities, The Civil Rights Movement, and Global Diversity, including the Partnership for Educational Awareness and Cultural Exchange (PEACE Project). Among academic skills, writing is emphasized, as is research on Civil Rights in the U.S. and Human Rights around the world.
The Office of EXCELlence works productively with UT administration, and grants have enhanced University funding to cover costs of the TOLEDO EXCEL program. Owens Corning Fiberglas and Owens-Illinois, Inc., head the list of generous local sponsors of EXCEL and the Annual Conference. To date, there are more than 1,100 students in the EXCEL "pipeline." Of groups I - XIX, 798 students, 96% have enrolled in college; 74%, or 611 students, have enrolled at UT; 84% of EXCEL scholars are college graduates or students matriculating towards college graduation. Students for EXCEL Group XXV are being recruited. Enrollment and achievements of EXCEL students is but a partial return on investment in the program, as is recognition that the program helps dreams be realized.
*Excerpt taken from The University of Toledo 2003 President's Report