Connecting the Prairie to the Ivy


Nine high school students to explore the East Coast and the Ivy League

By Tim Epperson - [email protected]



Dustin Belsha and Akaycia Mather will be among nine high school students from Smith-Cotton High School and Sacred Heart High School to take a trip Feb. 20-23 to the East Coast to explore Ivy League Universities.


For most Midwest students, attending an Ivy League university is not a consideration or, if it is, the costs of out-of-state tuition is prohibitive.

In an effort to expose students to the East Coast and the Ivy League Smith-Cotton alum Steve Loftus and Bryant Motors are funding a trip for seven Smith-Cotton students to travel to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to give them an opportunity to explore the Ivy League culture and take tours of Dartmouth University in Hanover New Hampshire, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in Massachusetts. The trip was named by the schools, “Connecting the Prairie to the Ivy.”

The students will fly to Boston Feb. 20 and return to Sedalia on Feb. 23.

For Smith-Cotton High students, Dustin Belsha and Akaycia Mather, the trip will be the journey of a lifetime.

“I’m sure sure about what I’m going to do for a career or what college, I’m going to, but this trip will give me to explore my options and it’s going to be a really cool opportunity,” said Belsha, a 16-year-old junior at Smith-Cotton High School. “I’m really going to enjoy it. They both have good academic programs”

Mather, a 15-year-old sophomore at Smith-Cotton said the trip will give her a more in-depth look at the universities and maybe have some influence on what she’d like to study and where she’d like to attend college.

Smith-Cotton students Abby Ahern, David Cho, Evan Luebbert, McKenna Steger and Mike Husyev and Sacred Heart High School students Abby Smeltzer and Sadie Rollings will join Belsha and Mather on the trip, accompanied by teachers from both high schools. The trip is geared mainly to sophomores and juniors, but one senior is going because he has applied to MIT.

The student’s have a full agenda. On Monday, Feb. 20, the students will leave Kansas City International Airport and fly to Boston where they will check in to their hotel and do some sightseeing around Boston.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the students will travel to Hanover and attend an information session at Dartmouth College and take a tour of the campus. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the students will take unofficial trips to Harvard and MIT and tour its campuses.

Belsha said he is interested in studying math, science and journalism and wants to see what each university has to offer in those disciplines.

“I’m eager to meet some of the students and see their stress levels, what keeps them going and why they chose these universities to study,” Belsha said.

Mather said she is most interested to see the differences between those institutions as opposed to the University of Missouri and the University of Central Missouri.

“I want to talk with the students about how they made their decisions in what they’re studying and why they chose these schools,” Mather said.

Each student was chosen for this trip based on their academic performance and a written essay about why they wanted to be selected plus and they saw themselves in 10 years.

Belsha said his family supports him and is really excited about his trip. He said he will be the first in his family to attend a four-year university. Mather, who has never flown on a plane, said her family thinks it will be a life opportunity to explore the East Coast and the Ivy League, since niether have them have been there.

Both students are taking advanced placement courses and have performed well academically.

“AP biology is really work intensive, it is supposed to prepare us for college,” Belsha said.

In addition to studying math, science and philosophy, Belsha said he volunteers for the Salvation Army, the Community Cafe and is an avid reader. Mather also reads voraciously and enjoys community service.

“Hopefully this trip will motivate me to really work hard to be accepted in to places like those universities,” Belsha said.

Mather said she hopes the trip helps students to “really decide on what to do in our futures.”

Dustin Belsha and Akaycia Mather will be among nine high school students from Smith-Cotton High School and Sacred Heart High School to take a trip Feb. 20-23 to the East Coast to explore Ivy League Universities.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/web1_Ivy-League-1.jpgDustin Belsha and Akaycia Mather will be among nine high school students from Smith-Cotton High School and Sacred Heart High School to take a trip Feb. 20-23 to the East Coast to explore Ivy League Universities.
Nine high school students to explore the East Coast and the Ivy League

By Tim Epperson

[email protected]

Reach Tim Epperson at 660-530-0146

Reach Tim Epperson at 660-530-0146

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