Shortly after former President C. D. Mote Jr. began his tenure at the University of
Maryland in 1998, he noticed an alarming trend: Few students from Baltimore
City public high schools applied to and subsequently enrolled at the state’s
flagship university. Of particular concern was the fact that the overwhelming
majority of the students who did came from three city high schools: Baltimore City College, Baltimore Polytechnic and Western. There was little or no representation from the other high schools in the city.
The University of Maryland Incentive Awards Program was created to recognize and promote scholarship, leadership and community responsibility among students from select high schools, and to make it financially possible to enroll at the University of Maryland. The program identifies and selects students who have demonstrated uncommon persistence, ingenuity and maturity by maintaining good academic performance in the face of challenging circumstances.
Launched as a pilot program in Baltimore with just nine students (pictured above), the program expanded to select
schools in Prince George’s County in 2006. A generous gift in 2012 allowed further expansion to KIPP public charter schools in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Each student is awarded financial support for four years and will benefit from a strong, nurturing community of advisors, mentors and administrative staff while at Maryland.
The program is not defined by its scholarship component, however. The distinguishing characteristic is its focus on developing character, critical thinking skills and leadership in the context of an intimate community of peers. This "community within a community" is what sustains students and challenges them to develop the skills that will benefit them and their hometowns.
Scholars embrace a spirit of reciprocity by maintaining strong ties to their home and school communities, regularly returning to their high schools to serve as role models for younger students. Throughout the year, they engage their peers in discussions, sharing with them their own Maryland experiences and the importance of proper academic preparation for college. The intent is for their success—attained through hard work—to be an incentive for others to persist toward high school graduation, pursue higher education and achieve in the face of adversity.
As the alumni base continues to grow, the positive impact will be even more profound on the communities that these students call home. Throughout all future endeavors, they will hone those skills nurtured through the University of Maryland Incentive Awards Program and use them in every aspect of their lives.
The Incentive Awards Program recognizes and promotes academic excellence among motivated students from underserved communities and aims to provide ongoing, comprehensive guidance as they pursue their educational, professional and personal goals.
To be a dynamic program that helps students reach their academic, social and professional potential thereby changing the communities within their sphere of influence. Through tailored activities that promote leadership, civic responsibility, persistence, and self-awareness, every student with the will to succeed can achieve and change the course of their lives and those around them.
Values & Beliefs
- Hard work and tenacity are at the core of one’s success; students can face and overcome obstacles in the path.
- Students take personal responsibility for their actions and are in control of their respective futures.
- Students have a shared purpose in being at the University of Maryland, which fosters cohesiveness throughout the group.
- Developing a philanthropic spirit and community responsibility engenders care and compassion for those within students’ reach and beyond.
- Strong character and a positive attitude--over academic prowess--determine students’ performance and their college experience.
- Connectedness that crosses all cohorts and high schools is vital to the esprit de corps of the group.
- A successful program requires dynamic assessment to ensure that students’ needs are met.