Letter Writing Tradition Valuable for Future Rouse Scholars
While a senior in high school, Daniel Adegbesan was accepted into his top choice university. He was excited to attend the institution, but the school was out of state and tuition incredibly high. From there, his family began looking into Howard Community College (HCC) as a more financially sustainable option.
“The more I learned about it, the more attracted I became to HCC,” he said.
Daniel enrolled at HCC as part of the school's prestigious James W. Rouse Scholars Program, a selective, challenging honors leadership program that prepares students to transfer to colleges and universities to complete the junior and senior year of their bachelor’s degree.
During the second semester of his first year at HCC, Daniel took part in a tradition of the program – writing a letter to a prospective student who is considering attending the college as a Rouse Scholar.
The letter writing initiative began three years ago, with the idea of connecting potential students with current students, said Laura McHugh, assistant director of the Rouse Scholars program.
“We wanted the incoming class and potential Rouse Scholars to have a better understanding of what this program is all about – and what better way to do that than to have our current students speak from their own experiences,” she said.
Daniel chose to reach out to Keenan Eldridge, whom he’d known since middle school.
“I wrote about my personal hesitations in deciding whether to attend HCC over my top choice university, and how grateful I was to end up here,” he said.
Keenan had heard about the Rouse Scholars program through his high school guidance counselor.
“But once I received the letter of persuasion from Daniel, I learned even more about the program,” he said.
Daniel wrote about their previous experience in the Alpha Achievers program at Howard High School, where Keenan was elected as his successor as president.
“The letter was handwritten and included the benefits of Rouse, such as the scholarships, study abroad opportunities, and the free events we are able to be part of,” Keenan said. “It played a large role in whether I attended HCC, as I had financial concerns with college.
“These letters are extremely valuable as they can cause a huge swing in someone’s decision to attend HCC.”
HCC Student Government President Addison Haynie remembers receiving her letter while in high school.
“It talked about her first year, her major, and her love of the Rouse program,” she said. “At that point, I believe I had already had my mind set, but the letter reinforced the reason I was joining. It made me feel welcomed into the community I was about to join.”
Addison has since had the opportunity to write two letters to prospective Rouse Scholars, who both decided to attend HCC and join the program.
“I wrote about my major and how much I enjoy the program,” Addison said. “I wanted to make sure they both felt very welcomed both into the program, but also to the school. Starting college can be a scary thing, and it was great to let them know that they had a friend coming into it.
“These letters are the first step of fully welcoming students into the program. The program is a family, and the letters start to build the bond.”
Arielle Wickstrom was the recipient of one of Addison’s letters.
“She told me how I was an aspect of why she joined the program, and it meant the world to me,” Addison said. “The fact that I could give students the love that I felt when I first joined, just made it feel like I was passing on a legacy.”
While the letter wasn’t a major factor in whether Arielle would be attending HCC, she says the person who wrote it was.“I was originally applying to STEM but Addie and I hit it off so well she convinced me that Rouse was the way to go,” she said. “Addison and I are very good friends now and hang out whenever we get the chance.”