Richmond’s Department of Education is hopeful that MSI: Richmond will do for middle school and high school students what the television show CSI has done for forensics—inspire young people to perform better in mathematics and the sciences and to go to college.

Since CBS’s hit television show CSI launched in 2000, thousands of young people have discovered forensics, using scientific techniques and methods to investigate crimes. Applications to graduate programs in forensics have shot up and science teachers have incorporated forensics topics into regular science courses to increase interest and participation.

Richmond’s Department of Education is hopeful that MSI: Richmond will do for middle school and high school students what the television show CSI has done for forensics—inspire young people to perform better in mathematics and the sciences by preparing them academically and at the same time, inspiring them to go to college.

Born out of a partnership between the University of Richmond’s Department of Education, Richmond Public Schools and Phillip Morris USA, the program brings 100 children to the University of Richmond each summer for five weeks of intensive science and math classes, designed to prepare them for their upcoming academic year. Rising eighth-graders take classes in earth science, algebra I, research and content literacy; rising ninth-graders substitute classes in biology and geometry.

“Our goal is to take students through at least the first marking period of the next academic year,” said James Wright, director of MSI: Richmond. “When they go back to school in the fall and they’ve already seen the material before, they have a lot more self-confidence and feel more comfortable taking honors and advanced classes.”

In addition to tracking participants’ academic progress throughout the year, students continue to participate in a tutoring program that pairs them with University of Richmond students.

MSI: Richmond launched in 2005 and some students have participated in the program for three straight years. Initially open to students in King, Chandler and Thompson middle schools, the program has now expanded to include all nine City of Richmond middle schools.

“We’re essentially increasing enrollment in advanced math and science classes across the school district. Many of our students are now successfully gaining admission to choice high school programs like Richmond Community High School and Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School,” Wright said.

Wright argues that one of the best things the program does is inspire students to want more. According to Wright, 100 percent of urban kids say they want to go to college, but most of them don’t know what college is really about.

“Each summer, we let them work in real laboratories with real equipment. They attend classes in a beautiful collegiate setting and they eat in the most amazing dining hall they’ve ever seen,” Wright said. “They all leave wanting to come back the following summer, but also to one day attend college themselves.”