By Ruth Young Tyler
High school students have gained an opportunity to prepare themselves in academic development, college and career planning and life skills training while building bonds with their peers by participating in the College Orientation Workshop (COW). COW is an intensive four-week summer educational and enrichment program at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) designed to prepare high school juniors and seniors who live in underserved communities in Maryland and in cities across the United States. The program is free and is currently recruiting Baltimore area students
For Suitland High School students Christian Gray and Micah Appling, both said the program prepared them for the rigors of college. Prior to attending the four week program, Gray and Appling didn’t know each other, yet developed a “brotherhood’ during their time at VMI.
“This is a whole new level of hard work,” said Gray, 17, who learned new strategies on leadership and personal development.
Gray said he learned about the COW program while attending a Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) session. He plans to study engineering at Morgan State University or Florida State.
The participants succeed through a multi-faceted approach which includes classes in math, English and financial literacy taught by experienced professionals. An integral part of the program is learning valuable life skills including, sessions on time management, networking and goal setting.
Appling said through the coursework, he gained a greater understanding of algebra, geometry and trigonometry.
“No matter where you come from, you can achieve what you want if you focus and work hard,” he said. He hopes to secure a scholarship and attend VMI. Appling, 17, will be the first in his family to graduate from college.
During the college and career planning process, participants receive one on one, as well as group coaching and counseling. The mentoring process continues after the students complete the program. The program also focuses on cultivating confidence, greater self-esteem, a stronger work ethic and a commitment to achieving success in spite of some social obstacles.
COW provides more than just academic enhancement and leadership development. Participants also engaged in a daily physical fitness endurance and character building sessions called “Eat the Bear.” The session is designed to test their character and teambuilding strengths when they are fatigued or afraid.
“If you’re not coming to the program giving 100% effort, it’s going to be hard for you to succeed,” said Appling.
“You do what you practice most,” said Eugene Williams, CEO and founder of COW. “We practice in the conditions of which we want them to perform,” he said. Williams is a Baltimore area resident and an alumni of Virginia Military Institute.
The consistency and the data of the program demonstrate its success. 2018 marks the 32nd year of operation of the program. The program has favorably impacted the lives of more than 730 students. Many of the students completed college, trade school, military and other careers. As of August 2017, 75% of former participants attended college. Williams said the program has thrived thanks to the support of sponsors, donors, board members and volunteers.
“We’ve been blessed with donors that believe in our mission,” said Williams.
There is no charge to students selected to the program. As a fundamental tenet of the program, within the constraints of the enrollment limits, a lack of financial resources should not prevent a deserving student from participating in the program. For a student application or more information, log onto www.cow4life.org.