Middle Schoolers Experience College on Shadow Day
March 23, 2009 – 180 students from Washington’s Sousa and Ronald H. Brown middle schools came to Georgetown for this year’s Shadow Day on March 19. The culmination of the six-week Kids2College program, Shadow Day gives sixth-graders in D.C.’s Ward 7 schools a taste of college life and what it takes to make it into a university.
“Our goal is early college awareness,” says Charlene Brown-McKenzie, executive director of Georgetown’s Meyers Institute for College Preparation. “We’re giving them the sense of a campus and community, so six years from now they’ll have a better idea what college is about as they start to apply.”
Georgetown undergraduates in the Patrick Healy Fellowship program and other student volunteers have spent the past six weeks in Sousa and Ronald H. Brown middle schools providing snapshots of college and career preparation.
For some of the sixth-graders, Shadow Day marks their first visit to Georgetown – or any college or university. Others have been to the Georgetown for summer camps or academic events. But no matter what their familiarity, Shadow Day organizers want all the students to leave with thoughts of college in their futures.
Patrick Healy Fellow Carlos Palacios (SFS’09) led the student organizers for Kids2College this year. Previously involved with D.C. Reads and D.C. Schools tutoring programs, he says working on Shadow Day was the next natural step for him.
“We can talk about college to the kids as much as we want, but they’re in sixth grade. Until they see and visit here, it won’t be real to them,” Palacios says. “They need to experience the campus and be able to touch it to know that it is really possible for them to be here or at another university some day.”
Of course, university life is not only about hitting the books, so the sixth-graders get a taste of life outside of the classroom as well. A scavenger hunt takes them around the campus; tours of residence halls shows them how college students live. The sixth-graders also dine in O’Donovan Hall with Georgetown students and professors.
“By visiting here, I want my students to get an experience they wouldn’t normally get,” says Sousa teacher Charles Pace. “This isn’t a superficial experience – they are eating the food, talking with professors and seeing the dorms.”
Sousa teachers, he says, have piggybacked off visits by Georgetown students to his classes by talking more about college life.
The Kids2College program, funded this year by the United Planning Organization, operates as a feeder program into the university’s Meyers Institute for College Preparation. The institute provides children from some of D.C.’s underserved neighborhoods academic enrichment that prepares them for college. Students enter the institute in seventh grade and receive academic support through their first year of college.