Partnerships between universities and high schools for student success

About CLIMB (Collaborative Laboratory Internship and Mentoring Blueprint)

Back in 2015, The University of Missouri–St. Louis and the Jennings School District developed a model for how urban universities and urban high schools can work together to begin to reduce the opportunity gap facing disadvantaged underfunded districts. Patricia Parker, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor in Zoological Studies, began working with district administrators to create a paid summer internship program for high-ability but low-opportunity students from Jennings Senior High, a school with a population that is 100% African American and 100% free-lunch-eligible. Since the program's start in 2015, participation in CLIMB has expanded into five Saint Louis County school districts: Jennings, Hazelwood, Ritenour, Riverview Gardens, and University City. 


In the program, students work for six weeks, 40 hours per week, spending Monday through Thursday in research groups in chemistry, biology, physics, psychology, education, math and computer science and – some years – music. They learn technical skills and research know-how within their area of interest. Each Friday, they assemble with the entire group for career development, from filling out college and scholarship applications, and how to think about college financing to learning presentation skills. The students also hear from one or two guest speakers who discuss their chosen professions. The interns interview the guests about their decisions, how they handled adversity and made career choices to end up where they are today. At the end of the program they make formal presentations to an audience of friends and family, plus district representatives and UMSL administrators and researchers. 

The interns are paid $13 per hour, and the program also provides them with Metro passes to cover transportation costs and enough money on their UMSL-ID connected accounts to eat lunch at the campus food court until their paychecks start coming in.


The program has had nearly 100 participants since its start in 2015 and CLIMB has helped prepare them for success both in high school and beyond. For example, 19 of the 22 students from the 2016 and 2017 cohorts have gone on to study at one of 12 colleges and universities in eight states since earning their diplomas. The internship played a part in helping them get there. 

The UMSL student body, particularly the graduate students in the sciences, embraced the mission of this program and initiated their own mentoring program JUMP (Jennings-UMSL Mentoring Program) in which graduate students work within classes at the school and take groups of mentees on monthly day-long outings to museums, natural sites, botanical gardens, and other places around St. Louis they otherwise would be unlikely to visit.

The success of this program is attributed to the vision and close partnership established between Dr. Parker of UMSL, Dr. Rhonda Key, and Dr. Miranda Ming, who played critical roles in establishing and expanding the program as administrators within the school districts. 

Want to know more? We would be glad to connect you with any of the program's directors or previous students who’ve taken part in the program to discuss its impact.