Scholars Academy still a great experience even though it’s been virtual the last two years
by Atticus Johnson
Missouri Scholars Academy is a program held at the University of Missouri for 330 select gifted juniors from throughout the state. Applicants are required to submit essays and gather teacher recommendation letters for consideration. Usually, the three-week event is held on campus at the University of Missouri, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has been held virtually for the last two years.
While this year’s MSA featured a curriculum that consisted of required Zoom calls for two hours daily for two weeks, the 2020 MSA had a non-structured, optional, Discord based curriculum due to the cancellation coming only weeks before the event was scheduled.
Webb City juniors Evan Garrison and MacKenna Kelly were selected to participate this year, working summer jobs around their MSA schedules.
Evan, who took the major “Thriving on a Riff,” said he enjoyed the virtual MSA experience because “I explored new areas of learning that I hadn’t looked into, and educational interests I didn’t know I had.” Thriving on a Riff, a jazz-based major, included courses on the social science and history of jazz music. “I was put in a class that I thought was going to be about jazz, but it was actually about social science. I learned a lot more than I thought I would.”
This year’s MSA also featured some guest speakers of interest, such as a Holocaust survivor, a space engineer, and a climate change chemist.
MacKenna opted for the major “James Bond in FIlm and Literature.” She says she most enjoyed “reading an excerpt from Casino Royale and analyzing it, it was one of the first things we did where everyone was interested. Everyone had gotten comfortable with each other after the first few days and we talked and discussed.”
MacKenna noted that while she enjoyed virtual MSA, she “would have enjoyed in-person MSA more” and looks forward to future students getting to participate in person. “Regardless,” she concluded, “being able to form relationships with people, even over a screen, was a learning experience.”
Webb City High School is allowed to send two upcoming juniors each year to the Missouri Scholars Academy. Atticus Johnson and Connor Peterson, now seniors, were Webb City’s 2020 scholars.