Mid-Shore Scholars Celebrate One Year

By CHRIS POLK cpolk@stardem.com Feb 6, 2020

MSS Group
Mid-Shore Scholars are all smiles at their first year anniversary party on Saturday, Feb. 1. In front, from left: Julissa Quiahua Trujillo, Dayana Gonzalez-Madrid, founder Loretta Blume, Lisayda Mendez-Perez, behind her Genevieve Loveland, Naiset P Yubi Perez (partially hidden) Sheily Barton-Perez and Shanille Rollins. Back row, from left: math teacher Mike Landau, Alex O Perez, Andrey Perez, Executive Director Vivian Landau, Catherine (Blume) Meyerle and board members Gordon Fronk, Al S and Sally Fronk. Not pictured: college prep advisor Samantha Martinez.

EASTON — The possibility of going to college does not always present itself to every bright, ambitious young person in high school.

Some young people have to work to help support their families. Some come from generations of folks who considered college to be something that other people did. Some young people are just plain uncomfortable in the world of academia.

Educators and philanthropists Marshall and Loretta Blume, who made Oxford their home in recent years, decided to try to bridge that problem. They founded a nonprofit organization last year, creating a unique curriculum that’s all about getting into college and staying there to earn that degree.

Mid-Shore Scholars is a rigorous and multi-faceted program for high school students aspiring to attend college. Many of the scholars will be first generation college students, and often come from single-parent homes or need extra mentoring and support. Sadly, Marshall Blume died unexpectedly on Jan. 27, 2019, just before the program launched. He was a professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for 44 years, and his wife Loretta also is a former educator.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, Mid-Shore Scholars celebrated the first anniversary of their start date, which was Feb. 2, 2019, and announced they were going to merge with Talbot Mentors. A year ago, the organization’s first director, Samantha Martinez, worked with the staff of Sts. Peter and Paul High school and found four highly motivated, good students who faced major challenges in terms of opportunities.

Now they have more than a dozen students who all have been accepted to colleges and 30 students on a waiting list. The program combines an innovative curriculum, hands-on project-based learning, academic enrichment, and individualized college preparation and counseling. An emphasis on consistent study habits and time management are key.

Mid-Shore Scholars helps students navigate the rigorous process of going to college that includes an acceptable GPA, SAT/ACT test scores, applications, FAFSA forms, student interviews and numerous steps in between.

The group visited five college campuses last year and is scheduled to visit two more this spring. The criteria for acceptance in Mid-Shore Scholars can be tough. Students must have a 3.0 GPA with extracurricular activities, be highly motivated, qualify for Free and Reduced Meals, be a potential first generation college student or from a single-parent family, or prove financial need. The student needs at least two references.

If accepted, there is no charge to families, but students must be committed to attendance. A student signs a contract for one year, maintains a 3.0 GPA and has no more than two absences in the Mid-Shore Scholar program each semester.

Classes meet every other Saturday at the MSS facility at 108 Maryland Ave.in Easton. There also are tutoring sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.

“Our goal is, 100% of our scholars get into college, 100% stay in college, and 100% graduate,” Executive Director Vivian Landau said. She said the hope is the graduates will return to Talbot County and “pay it forward” to other young people who are daunted by the prospect of college.

After a year at Mid-Shore Scholars, Easton High School junior Sheily Barton-Perez recounted what many would consider to be the ultimate success story.

First, she’s skipping a grade and is graduating as a senior this year from Easton, but that’s not all. Barton-Perez was born in Easton and has a younger sister in middle school and a younger brother in Head Start.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college, and my parents are really proud,” she said. “My mom started crying.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Barton-Perez said. “I want to be a nurse anesthetist.”

Barton-Perez has been accepted at Washington College this fall and has been named as the recipient of the prestigious Founder’s Scholarship, which is $25,000 a year, for a grand total of $100,000 for all four years.

Landau said they were interviewing candidates and were hoping to get more ninth- and 10th- graders, where the curriculum concentrates more on academics. In 11th and 12th grade, she said, the curriculum intensifies.

“We work with social skills, communication, and all those things that make the difference between kids that can be really bright and kids that really don’t stand out,” Landau said. Loretta Blume continues to provide funding for Mid-Shore Scholars, and she and her children are determined to bring to life the vision of their late husband and father,.

Board members for Mid-Shore Scholars are Loretta Blume, Don Cook, Al Smith, Gordon Fronk, Richard Marks and Landau. Darlene Spurrier represents Talbot County Public Schools, and Samantha Martinez serves as a college prep advisor.

Talbot Mentors, under the guidance of Gerson Martinez, and Mid-Shore Scholars, under Landau, officially merged on Feb. 1. They are located side by side at 108 Maryland Ave. On Saturday, Feb. 1, just before the merger, officials were talking about taking down a door in the middle wall that separated the two organizations.