Balfour Program creates space for students to relate
When Indiana University student and former Balfour Scholar Ramir Williams lost his mother, no one knew, not even his friends at the Balfour Scholars Program. When he revealed his mother’s passing at the awards ceremony, they clung to him like family.
“It built that relationship and family that want to make sure that you stay up and want to make sure that you take care of yourself, just that family aspect of Balfour,” Williams said.
When his mother passed, after Williams entered into the Balfour program, he had a deeper feeling of belonging, and the other students in the program became like a small family to comfort him.
“That [the death of his mother] actually kind of connected a lot of the students that I come to know now at IU,” Williams said.
The Balfour Scholars program, is a free program for underrepresented high school juniors and it gives the students more insight on what it means to be an underrepresented student in college, this program also helps minority students relate to one another.
“When I went to the program it taught me more about what it meant to be an underprivileged minority,” Williams said.
Before he went to the Balfour Scholars program, he was a highly involved student at Lawrence Central High School and did not think anything about being underprivileged.
“Before [the Balfour Scholars program] I really did not think anything about it,” Williams said.
Williams’ high school was not unlike any other school in the MSD Lawrence Township district, according to PublicSchoolReview.com, was 68 percent African-American. According to Williams, when he attended Lawrence Central High School, it was 65 to 70 percent African-American.
When Williams attended Lawrence High School he was surrounded by students who were mostly African-American like him.
“That aspect didn’t really hit me or come to me until I went to that program to learn more about it,” Williams said.
Similarly, Christina Wright-Fields, director of the Balfour Scholars program, said it is important for underrepresented students to find commonality among their peers. Also according to Wright-Fields, students are able to speak to the experience of being marginalized and can create a space for themselves.
“[We can] build communities within ourselves,” Wright-Fields said.
According to Wright-Fields, 35 percent of students who go through the Balfour program are admitted into Indiana University.
The Balfour program offers a variety of workshops for students to get the feel of a typical day on a college campus. Williams, now a day counselor and mentor for the Balfour Scholars program, said there is a class specifically geared towards students’ cultural identity or a cultural identity class.
“[It is] a class that’s built for scholars to find out who they are and what their identity is,” Williams said.
When Williams first attended the Balfour Scholars Program in 2014, he thought it wouldn’t benefit him. But he soon found out that it, in fact, had an enormous impact on him.
“Balfour opened my eyes to what it really means to be underrepresented,” Williams said.