Message to students at Confluence Preparatory Academy, ‘College is possible’
Message to students at Confluence Preparatory Academy, ‘College is possible’
Posted on 01/18/2013
Boles with students

headshotThe class discussion in Anatomy and Physiology at Confluence Preparatory Academy was different from most other days. The teacher, Mukaia Lockett, turned the class over to a college student and let her students direct the conversation.


From the middle of the classroom, a student asked, “So, what is petroleum engineering?”


The question was for Cameron Boles, a junior at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is one of five recipients of the Robert F. Henry Jr. Scholarship, presented by Confluence Charter Schools. He earned $5,000. Awardees must dedicate two weeks to working with Confluence students.


“It’s finding oil and providing energy for the rest of the world,” said Boles. Petroleum engineers use computer simulations, math and geology in their work, he explained.


“How much money will you make?”


Boles quoted a starting salary in the low 90s and said, “You can’t go into it for the money. You have to like what you do.”


“Do they help you in college?” someone asked.


“They help you if you want to be helped,” Boles answered candidly.


“Does the pressure get to you?” another student asked.


“The work is very, very hard. You have to put the time in, and the pressure does get to you. You have to get involved to help with some of the pressure,” said Boles.

Boles with students

Boles, left, helps seniors Joyce Smith and Monique Edwards work through an assignment. 

The conversation continued with the usual questions high school students ask about college – parties, sports, living in dorms, having a job, studying, grades and ACT scores.


When asked about his ACT score, Boles said he got a 31. The reaction from the class was a mixture of pride and surprise. He said he took the test three times, and each time his scores were good. “Some of it came natural to me, but I took ACT prep classes and studied.”


Boles graduated from Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School in 2010 as valedictorian.


Although he admits that he didn’t put in as much effort to studying in high school as he could have, his reality changed when he started college.


“When I got to Rolla, I had to study. I tried to memorize things at first, but that didn’t really work. You have to study a little bit every day,” he said.


“I knew what grades I wanted to get, so I took advantage of everything.” He talked about tutoring, meeting with professors during office hours and learning study habits.


He has a 3.8 GPA. “I try really hard.”


When it comes to scholarships, Boles told the students to “apply for everything.” He has 7 or 8 scholarships that are renewable. He’s received the Robert F. Henry Jr. Scholarship three times.


The award is significant to Boles for a few reasons.


“I keep applying because it’s beneficial to making my college dreams come true. It has helped me a lot financially, but I get to come here and meet and work with kids.

Boles with students 2

Seniors Shannon Cannida and Anthony Morris work on notes while Boles follows up on their progress. 

“I didn’t have a similar example as a teen, but I knew what was possible. I want to be an example and show them that what they want to do can happen. Being here is a great experience, too.”


He likes working with the students at Confluence Prep because he is comfortable with the age group. “I can relate to them and be an example. They seem to like me, too.”


“I want them to know that college is possible, and show that you can succeed. You don’t have to be a nerd to be in college, you can be cool and not be afraid to talk.”


“If you’re not going to college, you still need to have a plan and think about what the alternatives might be,” Boles said.


Cardinal Ritter taught him more than academics, he said. “They taught discipline and structure. I was prepared for college.”


So what is it about petroleum engineering that keeps him interested?


“People say it’s the hardest major at MS&T. It’s a lot of chemistry and physics. I feel like MS&T picks the hardest classes and curriculum. No other major has you looking for oil, and converting it to gas and plastics.”


He didn’t go to college with petroleum engineering in mind. He learned about the field after he started college. Three weeks before his freshman year, he was in a program called Hit the Ground Running. Years before, as a junior in high school, he was in a MS&T summer program called Minority Introduction to Technology and Engineering.


Boles is getting a great start in his career. This summer, he will intern with ConocoPhillips in Houston. In January 2014, he is going to the 7th International Petroleum Technology Conference in Dubai. He was nominated by a department chair to attend. He’s looking forward to meeting other students from around the world and learning how they approach problem-solving. It’s an opportunity to network and “better prepare for the future,” said Boles.


“It’s an aspect of life,” said Boles. “I’ve never been to Dubai. The field is global, and it wouldn’t hurt to get the experience now.”