Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Impressive Program for Bright Students

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Impressive Program for Bright Students

Article excerpt

Byline: Diann Catlin

With summer ending, many of Jacksonville students are heading off to college.

One fortunate group of graduates leaves with the incredible advantage of their involvement in a unique program called Focus on Excellence.

When Focus founder Jim Swanson decided to retire to the Jacksonville area from Chicago, he brought with him a passion for working with motivated smart kids.

He knew if bright students were given the tools and training found in private college preparatory schools, expert instruction in standardized test preparation and the motivation to succeed, colleges would respond with great scholarship offers.

His program is aptly named as his students not only see the target but hit the mark: a partial or full ride to the college of their choice.

Swanson saw a similar program, "High Sight," in Chicago.

LOCAL SUCCESS

Brainstorming with current Focus Executive Director Marcus Broadnax in 2007, they created the design to help students with higher than 3.5 GPAs attend private schools even though their family incomes were less than $50,000 per year.

It would be hard work and not a free ride, but when their Focus students left for college, they would leave with tools to succeed.

His students could not attend private schools, but if they qualified for admission, Focus would make their attendance happen.

Today, Swanson partners with private schools Bishop Snyder, Bolles, Episcopal, Providence and University Christian.

The Focus program also includes mandatory monthly classes to improve a student's essay writing, public speaking, goal setting, etiquette, integrity and more.

One Saturday a month, students enjoy lunch and classes intended to help them succeed in college and in life.

NOT EASY, BUT REWARDING

Is it an easy program?

Hardly.

Each student must maintain a 3.3 GPA or higher.

Are there rewards?

Absolutely.

The final reward will be a scholarship to the college of their choice, but if they produce a 3. …

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