WWU students bring fifth-graders to campus to get a glimpse of college
Hundreds of Western Washington University students have become mentors to fifth-graders this fall in a proactive effort to get more youngsters to see themselves as college-bound.
Last month, those fifth-graders from Skagit and Whatcom counties visited Western’s campus to see firsthand what higher education is like.
Corina Cheever, a geology major, shows Kyler Denman, a fifth-grader
at Lucille Umbarger Elementary School, how to use a mirror stereo
viewer during a geomorphology class during Compass 2 Campus.
Modeled after a successful program in Wisconsin, Compass 2 Campus aims to get more kids thinking early about college with the help of mentors and role models to show them the importance of higher education.
“Research tells us mentorship is the key,” said Cyndie Shepard, volunteer director of the program. “Kids who are mentored or who have a significant adult in their lives have a better chance of success.”
On Oct. 27, the WWU students led fifth-graders on tours of Western’s campus personalized to the youngsters’ interests. They got to see the inside of real college classrooms and laboratories to glimpse what’s in store for kids who are motivated to do well in school.
The Washington State Legislature established the program last spring in hopes of increasing the number of low-income students, students of color and first-generation college students in higher education.
About 430 WWU students volunteered to be among the first class of mentors to work with as many as 800 fifth-graders this fall in the Whatcom and Skagit elementary schools. The program will grow each year, eventually covering fifth through 12th grades in selected schools.
Working with elementary school teachers, the WWU students learn about the kids’ aspirations and talk to them about how going to college can help them reach those dreams.
In middle and high schools, WWU students will assist students with academic skills and serve as role models and mentors to youngsters and teens building their futures.
“I think we miss a lot of very bright children by just assuming that they’ll never make it because they don’t do well in school,” Cyndie Shepard said. “We typically let those kids go. We’re saying ‘We’re not letting you go.’”
The WWU mentors are receiving training through a three-credit class available to all majors. About half of the 430 students enrolled are from Western’s Woodring College of Education, or hope to be. The rest are from programs throughout campus.
Shepard co-founded a program similar to Compass 2 Campus several years ago at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where her husband, WWU President Bruce Shepard, was chancellor.
Learn more at the Compass 2 Campus Web site.