RATHER than working at the mall or in offices this summer, 70 high school students and 89 college students around the United States will be paid for serious academic work.
For most of the participants, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) "Younger Scholars" program will be an initiation into independent scholarly research.
Elyria Kemp, a senior at Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis, will study African-American composers of classical music.
"After taking four years of music history and studying about Western classical music, I always wondered if there were any African-Americans who had composed classical music," she says. Ms. Kemp plans to research and write about four black composers during the nine-week program.
Panels of humanities educators selected this year's scholars from 885 applications. Participants design their own research projects and are required to submit a final research paper to NEH at the conclusion of the summer.
High school students receive $2,000 and college students are paid $2,400 for their research. Those awards include a $400 payment for advisers, who guide the work of each student.
"These grants furnish young minds with a chance to experience both the pleasures and the responsibilities of scholarship," said NEH chairman Lynne Cheney at a press conference announcing the winners.
Lee Esterline, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock junior, will devote her summer to examining "Montaigne's Empiricism."
After taking a freshman seminar on the 16th-century French essayist, Ms. Esterline became interested in "the idea that Montaigne might have been making some conclusions rather than arguing for a kind of skepticism."
She spent part of last summer - after working 35 hours a week - preparing her proposal for the project. "It was just something I wanted to spend more time with," she says.
Esterline plans to attend graduate school and eventually teach at the college level. "I've had to work more while I was in school than I would have liked," she says. "This is a chance for me to recharge my batteries before I head into my senior year."
About 1,200 "Younger Scholars" have been sponsored by NEH since the program began in 1984. Some of their work has won academic awards and been published in scholarly journals.