Future Scholars Film Festival Highlights Program That Puts Kids on Path to a Rutgers Degree

PISCATAWAY, NJ—The Rutgers Future Scholars Program, a program designed to help disadvantaged students get into Rutgers and pay for their education, is hosting a film festival on Sunday April 27 from 4pm-10pm in the new Rutgers Cinema on the Livingston Campus.

Tickets are each $5 dollars, and can be purchased online at the Eventbrite invitation page.

The festival is presented by the Rutgers Future Scholars Committee as a way for the community to enjoy “a day of film and fun” while also learning about the program. This festival will include food, performances, and videos.

The Rutgers Future Scholars Committee hopes the event will promote to the community how this program offers hope and opportunity by providing academic, social, and financial support necessary to take these through middle school and high school, and ultimately into college.

The Rutgers Future Scholars Program started in 2007 when former Rutgers University President, Richard McCormick and Vice President of Enrollment Management, Courtney McAnuff addressed that the university was enrolling a diverse student body, but that it was largely recruited from affluent suburban areas.

When asked by former President McCormick about whether or not underprivileged students were applying to Rutgers, McAnuff responded, “It isn’t that they aren’t applying; they just aren’t prepared.”

“They have high drop out rates in many of those schools, sometimes approaching 50 percent,” said McAnuff. “Of those kids who do graduate, many had not taken a rigorous curriculum that would prepare them for standardized test like the SATS.”

McAnuff challenged to propose this program to address this enrollment inequality. One year after in 2008, the program was underway, bringing in its first group of Rutgers Future Scholars students.

The program serves as a college preparedness program that works with school districts in the host communities where Rutgers has campuses to identify 200 high-potential 7th and 8th grade students who are at or below the poverty line.

The program then provides them with mentorships, credit-bearing summer courses, and helps put them on a path to a college degree at Rutgers.

“Once they get here, because of their economic situation, they qualify for a lot of grants that we align for them,” said Michael Marion, the Associate Vice President for Corporate and Foundation Relations.

The RFS website promises that students who complete the program and are accepted to the university get free tuition.

"For students who successfully complete the pre-college part of the program, Rutgers will provide full tuition funding through scholarships and federal grants to students admissible to Rutgers University."

Jason Gaines Jr., a member of that RFS committee who is a Rutgers freshman and former RFS scholar, believed the program has taught him that success is possible, no matter where you come.

“Success is hard, especially coming from these communities where a lot of students have to face some very pressing issues, like gangs, crime, and criminal activity and the pressure from other students who engage in these horrible things,” said Gaines.

“I’ve learned that you can succeed as long as you put in the hard work to succeed and that’s what RFS has taught us from the beginning.”

Aramis Gutierrez, the director of Rutgers Future Scholars, believes “our university is only as good as the communities we live in.” He recognizes the hardship and challengers these communities bring upon teenagers and how it greatly impacts their journey growing up.

According to Gutierrez, this program focuses on three key questions to help guide students to success. The questions include:

“One-‘am I smart enough’ or ‘am I college material,’” said Gutierrez.

“So through our program and taking these courses they are proving to themselves that yes I am smart enough to consider going into college because they are excelling in courses that are taught my college professors. They are on a college campus, interacting with them and understanding what it takes to be successful in a classroom.”

“The second question is ‘will I fit in,’ or ‘when I get there are there going to be people who look like me or believe in the things I believe in’ or would welcome me there,’” said Gutierrez.

“And we help them answer that question by connecting them with undergrads as mentors. So early on, right when they enter our program in 7th grade. They begin to understand that this is a community that is waiting for their arrival. “

According to Gutierrez, the third key question is ‘How can I afford it.’

“We have the privilege of offering all our scholars an opportunity to attend the university tuition free, but they must earn it,” said Gutierrez.

Through the film festival, the Rutgers Future Scholars Committee hopes to show the crowd just how this program answers those three questions and other program-informative material on how this program gives back to the community.