An opportunity for powerful partnerships
The evolution of higher education has had a profound impact on rural America. Hundreds of American regional state universities and colleges were originally established as normal schools to train teachers for the thousands of small schools that dotted the rural landscape. However, as American society became more complex, the old "teachers' colleges" grew more comprehensive and, in many instances, rural issues took a back seat.
We believe rural communities are served well when universities and colleges become more intentional in the development of "rural-centric" programs and partnerships. The Rural Schools Collaborative strongly encourages this kind of collaboration.
An excellent example of this kind of work is Southern Illinois University Carbondale's work with Egyptian High School, "The Egyptian Experience." The partnership, which began in the summer of 2011, brings together SIUC's College of Education and Human Services, its Division of Continuing Education, and Tamms, Illinois' Egyptian High School. Support funding for the project came from an Illinois School Improvement Grant.
The high school students, under the direction of faculty and students from the University, created TREC (Trust, Respect, Esteem and Caring), a student-run group focusing on social and emotional learning with the goal of improving the school climate and culture. The teens themselves established the four core values, which drive their work.
About 30 students set about making positive changes. They worked with a team led by Cameron Carlson, assistant professor of educational leadership in the University’s Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education, to enhance their school and learning environment. Funding from the School Improvement Grant also provided a school counseling intern and an undergraduate science intern from SIU Carbondale, who worked with the high school on related projects.
TREC student leaders attend a two-day retreat at Touch of Nature Environmental Center, celebrating the accomplishments and positive change at Egyptian High School and making plans for the future. There was also a two-week PSAT boot camp for high school juniors, preparing them for the test.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale is one of many universities supporting rural schools and communities in meaningful ways. However, more good work is needed. Our planning grant program is focused on these kinds of collaboration.
If you know of an exemplary higher education-rural partnership, or if you would like information on our planning grants, please contact us on our Get Involved page.