The Scholar Squad: Helping college dreams become a reality
Left to right: Vivian Landau, Executive Director; Samantha Martinez, College Prep Advisor; Sheily Bartolon-Perez, freshman at Washington College Fall 2020 on a full ride scholarship; and Mike Landau, Math and Tech Advisor
By Amelia Blades Steward | Photos by Stephen Walker
Getting prepared for college can be daunting. But for a first-generation college student, it can sometimes present insurmountable challenges. Enter Mid-Shore Scholars (MSS), dedicated to helping high school students on the Mid-Shore fulfill their life goals.
Founded by Marshall and Loretta Blume in 2019, the program provides a unique curriculum, learning experiences, and activities coupled with college preparation to make attending college a reality to highly motivated students like Sheily Bartolon-Perez of Easton, who will be attending Washington College in the fall.
Sheily — who is graduating a year early from Easton High School — is in the National Honor Society, participated in dual enrollment at Chesapeake College her senior year, and is the first generation in her Guatemalan family to attend college. She comments, “I knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know how to do it. Since I was a young child, I have had a passion for being a nurse or a doctor. I will be in the pre-nursing program at Washington College and will transfer to a nursing program in my last few years.”
Her goal is to be a nurse anesthetist.
“The college application process was very overwhelming,” she said. “I had one-on-one meetings with Samantha Martinez, the College Prep Advisor for MSS. She helped review my college applications and essays and helped me look for scholarships to apply for. She supported me through the whole process.”
FROM TOP: Sheily Bartolon-Perez in her Washington College tee-shirt. A 2020 senior from Easton High School, Sheily proudly stands with her family as a graduate.
Mid-Shore Scholars Executive Director Vivian Landau comments, “Our ultimate goal is for all our Scholars to get into college, stay in college and graduate. Many of our Scholars work to help provide family income, do Dual Enrollment courses at Chesapeake, and still maintain their excellent grades. We tell them to set their goals high.”
The curriculum of MSS includes language arts, math, college prep, soft skills, after-school tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as access to college tours. Scholars have project-based learning throughout the program. Each Scholar is given a Chromebook with a MSS Google Account, which provides them the same computers, products, and access, and has also proven to be valuable for videoconferencing and staying touch with students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program consists of Saturday workshops that are project-based in academics and support the MSS six pillars: Communication, Collaboration, Reliability, Time Management, Resilience, and Decision Making.
Vivian’s husband, Mike Landau, is a math and tech instructor for MSS. “These ‘soft skills’ covered in the Saturday workshops are the primary predictors of success in academics, career, and life,” he said. “We promote consistent study habits, time-management, and academic enrichment.”
Introducing the Scholars to a variety of colleges is also a goal of the program on College Wednesdays, when current college students and alumni are invited to share information with MSS Scholars. Students also go on college campus visits throughout the year to gain a clear understanding of college life and its requirements.
Another element of the MSS program is coaching. Vivian adds, “Getting into college is a rigorous process. Not only does a student need to qualify through GPA, but there are also SAT/ACT tests to be scheduled and taken, application forms, FAFSA forms, student interviews, and what seems like endless steps in between. MSS coaches help our Scholars and parents navigate this process so that our Scholars are prepared, confident, and ready to be valuable assets to their individual college campuses.”
The final element of the program is financial scholarships. Staff work alongside Scholars to identify and apply for scholarships. The mission of MSS is to ensure that all Scholars successfully complete a four-year college degree with minimal debt, leading to life-changing opportunities for social mobility in the future. This coming fall, volunteer, Michele Waxman Johnson, will also work with seniors on FAFSA applications and college essays for scholarships.
According to Vivian, although the program started with four Scholars just 16 months ago, the current program has 21 Scholars: two seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores, four freshmen, and three upcoming freshmen. The make-up includes seven students from Saints Peter & Paul High School and 14 students from Easton High School. There are 15 girls and six boys. Students from the Mid-Shore are eligible to apply to the program who have and maintain a 3.0 GPA or above and demonstrate drive and determination throughout their academic career with college being their primary objective and future goal.
TOP: Mid-Shore Scholars staff and Scholars left to right. Top row: Sheily Bartolon-Perez, Cody Campbell, Andrey Perez, Danny Reyes, Dayana Madrid, and Genevieve Loveland. Second row: Lisayda Mendez-Perez, Naiset Perez, Shanille Rollins, Yubi Perez, Alex Ortiz-Perez, and Ashley Granados-Martinez. Third row: Julissa Quiahua Trujillo, Maydelyn Hernandez, Anderson Gomez-Bartolon, Franceska Alvarado, Jessenia Saurez, and Lindsay Velasquez. Bottom row: Daniela Vasquez, Johnny Perez, Kaleigh Hammond, Vivian Landau, Mike Landau, and Samantha Martinez.
MIDDLE left: Mid-Shore Scholars gather at a Christmas party at Vivian and Mike Landau’s house. Pictured left to right are Shanille Rollins, Dayana Madrid, Genevieve Loveland, Yubi Perez, Lisayda Mendez-Perez, Naiset Perez, Sheily Bartolon-Perez. Vivian Landau is in the front.
MIDDLE right : Pictured left to right are Alex Perez, Johnny Perez and Andrey Perez (front).
BOTTOM: Coronavirus never stopped Mid-Shore Scholars. They started meeting on Zoom as of 3/14/2020.
Although the program’s founder, Marshall Blume, passed away unexpectedly just days before the first four Scholars began their weekend orientation for the program in 2019, the Blume family has remained committed to funding the program in his honor. In February 2020, the program became part of Talbot Mentors who didn’t have a program for high school students who wanted to go to college. The organization became an immediate feeder program for MSS with a number of Talbot Mentors students joining the program, plus the merger has provided sustainability for the organization. Students are also able to meet at the Talbot Mentors facility on Maryland Avenue in Easton.
Before joining Mid-Shore Scholars, Mike and Vivian Landau were teachers at Chesapeake College, where they worked with students who needed extra help and guidance. Vivian was on the board of Mid-Shore Scholars and had a background in elementary and special education. Mike had worked in the videoconferencing, remote learning, and educational training. The jobs at Mid-Shore Scholars brought their backgrounds together for contributing to something greater.
Vivian comments, “Mike and I wished the kids we had at Chesapeake had been in a program like Mid-Shore Scholars before they reached college to identify weaknesses and build on strengths. So, when the opportunity arose to join the team at Mid-Shore Scholars, we both identified with the vision.”
Sheily has found the staff very supportive and always by her side throughout her participation in MSS. She shares, “They are nice people who want us to reach for our goals and never quit. They are always there to support us no matter what.”
In reflecting on her experience with MSS, Bartolon-Perez says, “My family is proud of me. I liked Washington College because it is close to home and a smaller environment, but it is really expensive. I not only got admitted to Washington College but was also accepted to the Washington College Scholars Program with a four-year full scholarship. I am the first one in my family to do this. Having something like this happen is rare and we are very grateful.”
Vivian adds, “Our program takes a commitment from the parents and the Scholars. Their drive and determination are huge. When we interview the kids to be in the program, the common theme is that they want to go to college because it’s a ticket to a better future.” Students also mention that they want to make their parents proud, be good role models to their siblings, and give back to their communities.
“Our program doesn’t stop when they get into college. We want them to graduate from college. It is especially important for first-generation college students because their drop-out rates are high. When they hit stumbling blocks, we are there for them. We hope that after graduation many will return to Talbot County and pay it forward showing other kids that college can be in their future also.”
Donations to Mid-Shore Scholars can be made through its website midshoreScholars.org. For further information, contact Vivian Landau, Executive Director, at vivianlandau@midshoreScholars.org or visit midshorescholars.org.