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High School Honors Students Sharpen Research Skills in Myrin Library

A group of students representing the Philadelphia Education Fund’s College Access Program at Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia came to Ursinus for a library research workshop and tour in April.

The students, about 20 11th graders in an honors English class taught by Aileen Kroon, an Ursinus alumna, were working on their first lengthy literary research paper influenced by two texts they read this year in an American literature class and anchored by literary theory.

They studied critical race, Marxist and feminist theory throughout the course of the year, and the trip to Ursinus provided them with a behind-the-scenes view of undergraduate-level research and resources.

“The library tour and research session were incredibly helpful preparation not only for the students’ upcoming English paper, but for the expectations that await them in their college years,” said Madeline Birkner, College Access Program coordinator at Olney Charter High School.

Diane Skorina, director of research, teaching and learning services for library and information technology at Ursinus and co-director of the college’s teaching and learning institute, and Christine Iannicelli, an instructional technology librarian, assisted the students with research methods.

“The students were fully engaged in the library workshop and the tour, and asked many great questions. Christine and I were so happy to get the opportunity to work with such a lively group of students and give them a glimpse at what their future in college could look like,” Skorina said.

The Philadelphia Education Fund receives federal TRIO funding to support College Access Programs at Olney Charter, as well as four other Philadelphia public high schools. Federal TRIO programs are designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The vast majority of students enrolled in Philadelphia Education Fund College Access Programs are low-income and potential first-generation college students.

Birkner said many students from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t know how to adequately utilize resources available in libraries and Olney Charter graduates have little to no experience working with school librarians or conducting independent, inquiry-based research.

The Ursinus experience helped to fill that gap for these students while assisting them with their research papers and giving them some college preparatory experience. –By Ed Moorhouse