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Hudson Scholars Take it to the Next Level

The Hudson Scholars program is back this July at Hackley School with the biggest group of Scholars and Mentors in its history. Sixty-five Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown rising 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th students and eighty-seven mentors, the largest group yet, are participating in the month-long program run by the Hackley School. In another first, five Sleepy Hollow High School former Scholars have returned to lead students as Mentors.

In its seventh year, Hudson Scholars provides continuity in learning by building a community between the TUFSD Middle school students and Hackley Upper School Students. By reinforcement of learning from the prior school year coupled with leadership, enrichment and physical Education activities, the program is recognized by both scholars and mentors as an amazing way to spend the summer.

Rising SHHS Junior Emily Orellana joined the 87 Hackley students as a mentor for the 2022 Hudson Scholars program.  Emily was part of the 1st cohort that participated in all four years of the program when she was in middle school. “It is one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life” was Emily’s response when asked how she benefitted being a Scholar.  “It helped me to become a better student, pushed me to my limit. As an 11-year old I looked up to my mentors so much I just really wanted to come back and be part of the community as a mentor myself.”

Fifth graders are identified over the course of the school year and then go through a process that includes a hand-written essay, and review of their grades. The students need to satisfy two criteria, participate in the reduced lunch program and also show academic promise. The program is tuition free, and for the students becomes the focal point of their summers, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have any summer activity. “Talking with the fifth graders it really becomes a carrot when you explain what an amazing opportunity being part of this program is, it teaches them to be responsible and reinforces to them ‘you are smart’ you can do this despite where you come from,” said Washington Irving teacher Christin Creary.

Scholars have a full day that includes academic classes, art, drama, music, physical education. All of the classes stress empowerment, teach leadership, promote a love of learning and a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality, building a sense of community and family. Field trips and team building events round out the curriculum, creating a rewarding experience for both the younger Scholars and the Hackley high school Mentors making everyone invested.  

Programs continue during the school year with Scholar-mentor reunions, ice cream socials with the students' families, as well as tutoring at Warner library once a week. Hudson Scholars director David Sykes said that they are working to give 9th graders more support in high school and beyond. Services have included a session with Hackley Alumni who spoke to the students about finding careers that involve your passion,  dispelling myths about the application process, plus informational sessions with Hudson Scholar parents past and present about the college process and financial aid. Over the course of the summer they also take the 9th grade Scholars to visit a few college campuses, most recently SUNY New Paltz, Marist and Vassar College. Looking ahead they are hoping to add a college visit for the older former Scholars during this school year.  Prepping the Scholars for the college process has become another facet of helping the Scholars beyond the program through high school and on to college.

On Saturday, July 23rd, 6th grade Scholars were at the Tarrytown Farmers Market running activities for preschool age kids, and 8th grade Scholars held four lemonade stands. The Scholars raised $1400 which is being donated to local charity Westhab.  The Lemonade stands provided an occasion to put into action the leadership and empowerment skills they have honed this summer while learning about entrepreneurship. 

The Hudson Scholars program winds down next week, culminating with a graduation ceremony for the Scholars who have completed the four-year program.  Creary summed the experience up for the Scholars this way “they seize the opportunity, it's so great how they will see it through.”