The Martin Luther King Jr. Student Scholars Academy, named in honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has the distinction of being the forerunner of similar programs in colleges and universities throughout the United States. In 1968, a group of young Black students known as the Black Action Movement challenged discriminatory practices at Western Michigan University and sought to increase racial minority student and faculty representation on campus.
The first academy, then known as Project 73, was born from that movement. A grant from the Kellogg Foundation established a six-week summer bridge program that provided academic services and scholarship to 60 African American first-year students from high schools across the southwestern Michigan region. In 1993, the year round program added a 21-day intensive summer program to the format where students earned academic credit while participating in group building, leadership and learning techniques.
In 1995, the program returned to campus, where students enrolled in Bronco Days (now known as Fall Welcome). In 1996, the summer component of the program was phased out to focus more on campus-based resources. In 2009, a pilot program was instituted to serve second-year studeents. The third-tier and fourth-tier followed in 2012. In 2012, the program, known today as the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Scholars Academy, or MLK Academy, became competitive, and in 2015, the MLK Student Association registered student organization was established.
Today, MLK Academy participants are recipients of the MLK G.O.L.D. Scholarship and the program has been restructured to include four tiers to provide services and support to students from their first year through graduation. Since its inception, the MLK Academy has served approximately 7,000 students, with a 80-85% retention rate. Participants come from diverse racial backgrounds and origins, including Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, White, and multiracial backgrounds.