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A Look at the Knowledge for Freedom Program

High-school students taking part in the Knowledge for Freedom summer program and their professor, Matthew Pinsker, pose for the camera during a field trip to Gettysburg, Pa. Photo by Dan Loh.

High-school students taking part in the Knowledge for Freedom summer program and their professor, Matthew Pinsker, pose for the camera during a field trip to Gettysburg, Pa. Photo by Dan Loh.

Video by Joe O’Neill.

Seminar helps level the playing field for students preparing for college life

Regional high-school students are getting a feel for college life this summer through an interactive seminar on democracy and the historic struggle for freedom in the U.S. They’re enrolled in the Knowledge for Freedom program at Dickinson. Funded by the Teagle Foundation and based on Dickinson’s House Divided Project, this residential summer program brings the Civil War and Reconstruction efforts to vivid life through classroom studies, special projects and field trips, while introducing students to what college classes and on-campus life are like.

“It’s designed to help high-school students, especially from low-income and first-generation families, to level the playing field,” says Matthew Pinsker, professor of history, Pohanka chair in American Civil War History and director of Dickinson's House Divided Project, who notes that it's getting rave reviews from students.

The program includes classroom work that sharpens students' critical-thinking and writing skills—all while learning about the history of U.S. slavery while staying on a campus that enrolled a 50-50 mix of Northern and Southern students during the American Civil War. Students also take field trips to Gettysburg, the National Civil War Museum, the national African-American Museum, the Gathering monument and Abraham Lincoln’s Cottage. 

And while they sharpen their critical-thinking and writing skills through college-level work, they also learn about what to expect during the college-application process and beyond.

“I’ve learned what financial aid is like and also what it’s like staying in dorm setting, room and board, and going to a seminar with an amazing professor,” said Camera Bailey, a Cumberland Valley high-schooler who benefited from a college-application and financial-aid workshop, delivered by Dickinson staff, along with Pinsker's tips on how to set herself up for academic success.

“I’m a first-generation college student, and my whole family is rooting for me,” adds Lea Quigley, a senior at Mechanicsburg High School. “I really appreciate that I’m being given this opportunity to see what college is like.”

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Published August 3, 2021

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