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Scholarship Program Urges 7th Graders to Take Massive Open Online Courses

Seventh grade students who take an online course designed for advanced high school and college-level students now can improve their chances of getting a scholarship through the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Officials from the Lansdowne,Va.-based foundation and edX, the free open-source online nonprofit, announced the new scholarship opportunity on Jan. 14.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation receives about 1,000 applications each year for 65 spots in its Young Scholars Program, designed for high-performing, low-income students. The precollege scholarship provides students beginning in 8th grade with individualized academic advising, financial support, and access to academic and extracurricular activities.

It has the potential to fund students through college with up to $40,000 a year as a last-dollar scholarship to cover expenses such as a musical instrument, computer, study abroad experience, or to pay college tuition. "It's all the kinds of benefits that a well-to-do parent would confer on his or her child," said Harold Levy, the executive director of the foundation.

To generate more interest and awareness of the program, the foundation has partnered with edX for the Middle School Scholarship Challenge. By participating in one of five specified edX massive open online courses (or MOOCs) this winter, applicants can secure a spot as one of 500 semifinalists in the competition.

The courses, which last from two to 10 weeks during January and February, include:

•Jazz Appreciation (offered through the University of Texas at Austin);

•Frankenstein (University of California at Berkeley);

•Programming in Scratch (Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif.);

•Introduction to Environmental Science (Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.);

•Super-Earths and Life (Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.).

"These courses are incredibly mind-expanding. They can introduce a child to other worlds, to other ways of thinking, to other cultures," said Levy. "For a child who is precocious intellectually and does not have an opportunity to flex those intellectual muscles...if they are aware of edX and they understand taking an edX course can have this kind of expanding impact on them, we want to sweeten the attractiveness here."

Registration for the winter courses for the Middle School Scholarship Challenge is open now for the free edX courses. Each includes between three and six hours of work per week that the students can do at their own pace wherever they have an Internet connection, according to edX. Students will receive an email from edX at the end of their course notifying them that their edX honor code certificate is available for download and they can then submit the certificate as part of their application.

The deadline to apply for the Young Scholars Program is April 14, 2015.

Ed X, founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently expanded its massive online open courses to include high school  Advanced Placement through partners at Rice University.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit received a $1 million donation this week from  New York philanthropist Steven Klinsky who would like for edX to create enough foundational college courses for a student to take one year of college online for free, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation  supports coverage of high-achieving, low-income students in Education Week.

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