During their last summer before college, most students spend their days celebrating graduation and having last adventures with high school friends before parting ways.
Trevor Sampson, 18, a Morris Community High School Class of 2013 graduate, spent his summer teaching summer school math to eighth graders in Chicago, and he hasn’t even moved into his dorm yet.
Sampson is one of 135 Golden Apple Scholars in Illinois that were given scholarships in return for their commitment to teach in disadvantaged schools.
The Golden Apple program provides tuition assistance to students who are future teachers while they pursue degrees in one of 53 Illinois universities.
Through the program, they are given extra training in teaching through summer institute programs, internships, mentoring, and by working with other Golden Apple teachers.
“When scholars complete the program, they have acquired more than three times the classroom experiences garnered by traditionally prepared teachers,” according to a Golden Apple press release.
In return, the students promise to teach in a high-need school in Illinois for five years after graduation. Sampson is going to Eastern Illinois University and attended his first summer institute at DePaul University.
“It’s cool to be surrounded by people who have the same passion as you,” he said.
He knew he wanted to teach, but was unaware of the Golden Apple Scholarship until his mother, Deb Sampson, found the information online while researching scholarship opportunities for him.
Applying was no easy task. In addition to the application, Sampson had to write seven essays and be interviewed. The essay topics ranged from how he handles diversity to why he wants to be a teacher, he said.
After his essays were complete, he received a letter thanking him for applying, but informing him that he was not accepted.
But it was a mistake.
“They called and apologized,” said Sampson’s father, Randy Sampson.
In Chicago after his interview, they made up for the mistake by telling him right then that he was going to be awarded the scholarship. They had never told a student that quickly before, said Sampson. But he had to keep it a secret for three weeks while the other recipients were determined.
“I was shocked . . . it was a huge load off my shoulders,” he said.
“I was excited, but then I was like, I’m going to miss the last summer with my friends. But I got there and it was way more fun than I thought it was going to be,” said Sampson. “I met life-long friends.”
JUMPING RIGHT IN
The summer institute consisted of teaching during the day most days and classes in the afternoons and evenings. The classes he took ranged from handling diversity to classroom management.
He started out observing a summer school class, but was soon asked to take over teaching it. Doing this, he found the students needed some motivation to get involved, so he began bringing candy to class as a reward for correct answers.
“You realize you are helping them way more than anyone else in their life. . . you realize you are the person they look up to, and that’s kind of cool,” said Sampson.
The dream to become a teacher for Sampson came simply from wanting to be able to help others. The education system in Illinois needs to be stronger, he said and he feels he could help improve it.
Sampson will be following in the footsteps of some of his aunts and uncles who are also teachers. Although he was killed by a drunk driver before Sampson was born, his Uncle Rick is a particular inspiration for him.
“From what I hear he was an amazing teacher,” he said.
Principal Kelly Hussy of Morris High feels Sampson has what it takes to be an amazing teacher himself.
He described Sampson as a supporter of his fellow peers while at Morris High.
“I think he is well suited for what he is looking at and it should be fun for him in college and beyond,” said Hussey.