Beginning in the 2012 school year, the Roscoe Collegiate School District and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service worked together with minority and under served youth with the goal of helping them prepare for, attend, and ultimately graduate from community colleges and universities. Roscoe Collegiate School District is an Early College  and a STEM Academy.
The Roscoe Collegiate-Extension Service project stimulates student interest and engagement in STEM-related research and practices through a unique combination of the Roscoe Collegiate School-wide 4-H curriculum and the “hands-on” curriculum of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. This innovative alliance and its practices provide Roscoe students with the resources necessary to compete better in today’s educational and work force environment, and can be a model replicated by other small and rural schools across the United States working to improve the public education system so that every student is prepared for success in school, in the workforce, and in life.
The Roscoe-Extension Service program includes a research-focused lesson cycle based on student-led research, data collection and analysis, and research poster development and presentation. The program has four distinct aspects:
- Preparing youth through academic achievement – All students in grades 3-11 conduct 4H-based research projects, culminating with a year-long, career-path relevant, capstone research project in grade 12. The capstone research project creates additional scholarship opportunities for students seeking financial assistance with the completion of undergraduate and graduate college degrees.
- “Hands-On” Extension Service curriculum enrichment – Participation in the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service curriculum provides a purposeful connection of program content to career opportunities. Examples of this curriculum include such programs as Veterinary Science, Junior Master Gardener, Food and Nutrition Challenge, and the Power of Wind.
- Relationship building with family members of these students – Preparing potential first generation students to attend college is not just an academic issue. There are also family and cultural concerns that must be addressed. The program cultivates a relationship with the families of these students to build a stronger sense of understanding of the value of a college education. Using resources of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and university partners resources, the program works with the parents and other family members to discuss reading objectives, career workforce development, and career opportunities for these youth both locally and nationally.
- Collaboration with Other Institutions of Higher Education – A key component for success of this program is its collaboration with several institutions of higher education in Texas, including Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, Angelo State University, Western Texas College, and other regional colleges and universities.
Results to Date
Although very early on in the project, results to date are very encouraging. Total enrollment for Nolan County’s (TX) in-house 4-H club increased 176% following introduction of the Roscoe Collegiate-Extension Service program, with a minority enrollment increase of 247%. Participation in 4-H is an important indicator of potential success, as research has shown that compared to their peers, youth involved in 4-H programs excel in several important areas related to college achievement, including participation in STEM programs and civic and other community activities. (Lerner & Lerner, 2013).
The innovative practices of the Extension Service-Roscoe Collegiate System project can be a model replicated by other small and rural schools across the United States. In Texas, there is currently interest in expanding this program to other counties in the state.
Lerner, R. M., & Lerner, J. V. (2013). The positive development of youth: Comprehensive findings from the 4-H study of positive youth development.
 Early College High Schools are small schools designed so that students can earn both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years (60 credits) of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree