Every winter, members of the College Counseling Team at Rutgers Prep make a series of announcements in our Upper School’s Morning Meeting. As seniors finish up their college applications, our collective attention turns to scholarship opportunities and, for the underclassmen, selective summer programs. State-wide selective summer programs like the New Jersey’s Governor’s School and New Jersey Scholars are relatively well-known to our students, in part because we often have a Rutgers Prep student in attendance, but one of the summer program announcements focuses on a program that is national in scope, and until this year, its list of alumni had never included a Rutgers Prep graduate.
This national program is offered by the Telluride Association, and consists of multiple intensive six-week summer programs of study and deep intellectual engagement. Sophomores apply to the Telluride Association’s Summer Seminar (TASS), while juniors are invited to apply to the Telluride Association’s Summer Program (TASP). Both programs are extremely selective and require a two-part application process. Interested students first write a series of essays, and then, if their work is strong enough to get them past that first round, are asked to participate in an in-person interview. Last winter, Matt Romage ‘20 was one of the Rutgers Prep students listening to the announcements and thinking, “That sounds amazing!” Both Telluride programs are also completely free of charge, as they are generously supported by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (www.jkcf.org).
This winter, Matt Romage ‘20 is in a position to reflect back on the experiences he had while living on Cornell University’s campus for most of last summer, because Matt was one of just 56 students in the entire country who was selected as a Telluride Summer Seminar Scholar!
When we caught up with Matt, he shared that there was initially some hesitation in his family about his application; the longest he’d been away from his family before Telluride had been about three days. But as he looked at the application and essay questions, he found that he had ideas about possible answers almost immediately, and one of the topics of the Telluride sessions at Cornell (there were other sessions at the University of Michigan) was intriguing, so Matt and his family ultimately decided that he would give it a shot.
Telluride works with university faculty to create exciting courses designed to inspire young people to explore the histories, politics and cultural experiences of people of African descent and a variety of other topics. TASS participants attend a three-hour seminar each day, which will typically include discussions, small-group work, lectures by faculty, and other activities. Students are expected to prepare for class and write several papers during the summer. Outside seminar, they present on a topic of their choice in the public speaking program, and hear lectures from guest professors visiting the TASS house. Writing workshops, field trips, and frequent cultural activities round out the summer. And of course, students also enjoy the company and intellectual stimulation of other talented students.
Matt’s seminar focused on the role of media in society and in our lives, and addressed such questions as: What are the racial, social, and class politics in self-fashioning one’s online presence? How do film and television construct and deconstruct persons and personas? How do the ways in which we see the world around us often challenge and contradict the myriad of images that we are constantly presented with?
“I don’t actually consume that much media in my day-to-day life,” Matt reports, “but I definitely don’t take any media at face value any more… ever since TASS I’m constantly unpacking anything I see. I’m super glad that I had this opportunity. Living away from home was a great and new experience, and the seminar itself has meant that I’m really excited about college now… the prospect of living in a new place, getting to explore, getting to choose my classes, making all those wonderful connections… I can definitely imagine it now, and I think it’s going to be great!”
We can imagine it, too, and of course it will be great. Congratulations to Matt on having been selected for this special program, and best of luck to those Rutgers Prep sophomores and juniors who are applying in the hopes of being selected for a Telluride summer program in 2019!