Erin Holaday

Robinson Scholars Revamps Its Program

Published: Sep 21, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 21, 2011) — A premiere first-generation scholarship program at the University of Kentucky is undergoing a transformation.


The Robinson Scholars Program (RSP) at the University of Kentucky, originally launched in 1997, has instituted a new selection process that promises to benefit more eastern Kentucky students throughout their high school careers.


Traditionally, RSP has selected 29 scholarship recipients at the beginning of their high school careers. The program worked intensely with those students to prepare them for college, and at the conclusion of the high school program, those students came to the university on a full scholarship.


The new approach will delay selection of scholarship recipients until the end of the junior year of high school. New scholarship recipients will be chosen in 2013. In the new approach, the program will select as many as 110 students in the 29-county service region to compete for scholarships as part of the Robinson Leadership Pool.


"At the high school level, we will serve about three times as many students each year,” said RSP Director Jeff Spradling. “The intent is to prepare even more first generation students in our region, regardless of where they attend college. We will still select 29 Robinson Scholars to come to UK each year, but students not selected will also benefit from a high-powered college preparatory experience."


In May 2011, 91 Robinson Leaders were inducted into the program.


In addition to participation in programs sponsored by RSP, Robinson Leaders are expected to pursue enrichment on their own, demonstrating work in three core areas of development, including community service, participation in extra-curricular activities, and dedication to academic excellence.


RSP provides programming to participants at no cost to students, such as college visits, weekend retreats and summer camps focusing especially on competence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).


“We realize that not every student will choose a STEM discipline as a career path, but all students must take science and math in college, and we want to make sure these courses aren’t a barrier for our students,” Spradling said. “We will continue to offer a range of academic training in our programs -- including writing, public speaking, and social sciences -- but we believe that STEM training is essential.”


The program staff is also hopeful that delaying scholar selection will help RSP attract and develop east Kentucky’s best and brightest among first-generation students, or those whose parents do not hold four-year college degrees. It will also introduce a healthy competition for the scholarship that will improve the entire group.


“Our first Robinson Leaders are amazing students. They are involved in community service. They represent their schools in a range of extra-curricular activities, and they are very talented academically,” Spradling said. “The raw talent and commitment of these young people is inspiring.”


Two years ago, Robinson Scholars students from UK spent their summer in Montana researching water resources and hiking through the wilderness. Students saw research outside of the lab, acquiring confidence and pride in their accomplishments.


Video by Amy Jones, UKPR. For a full video transcript, please see below.


The Robinson Scholars Program service area includes the following counties: Bell, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Estill, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike Powell, Rockcastle, Whitley and Wolfe.


Students chosen to be Robinson Scholars receive a full scholarship to UK or to a school in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.


“The Robinson Scholars Program represents a significant investment in the people of east Kentucky,” said Spradling, who hails from Menifee County, which is included in the RSP service region. “Our new approach will allow us to have a positive impact on the lives of even more deserving students.”


The program will begin taking applications for the second group of Robinson Leaders in November 2011. Ninth graders in the service region will be eligible to apply.


For more information about application to the program, contact Jessica Watkins in the program’s Jackson office at (606) 666-2438, extension 232 or check out the program's new Web site at


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