Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, December 14, 2009

Students say new outreach program inspires, builds interest in U-M

Dearborn Fordson High School sophomore Manal Saad learned a leader doesn’t have to be loud to be effective, thanks to a U-M effort to strengthen community outreach initiatives and develop new partnerships with disparate school districts and the students they serve.

Registered nurse Betsy Cambridge, center, of the School of Nursing shows Ann Arbor high school students how to take a blood pressure reading as part of a Center for Educational Outreach program. (Photo courtesy of Marie Ting, Center for Educational Outreach)

The effort also brought Inkster High School student Lamar Walk to campus to attend the annual Math and Science Scholars summer camp. Walk, who received a scholarship to allow him to attend, says the best part of the camp was meeting students from around the United States and the world: “That was a good interaction.”

Their comments come as The Center for Educational Outreach (CEO), a university initiative that seeks to ensure academic excellence for all K-12 schoolchildren in the state of Michigan, celebrates its first anniversary.

CEO builds upon these early contacts and partners with middle schools and high schools to encourage students to strive for academic excellence. In its first year, the center has sponsored visits to campus, facilitated connections between schools and U-M units, hosted students for a college preparation program and academic camps, and sent representatives to visit high schools to promote academic achievement.

One goal is to promote U-M as a top destination to students of diverse backgrounds who are deciding where they will attend college.

High school students experience U-M

Saad says that after a teacher’s recommendation she attended a CEO Youth Leadership Experience camp in August. There, she and other students joined in leadership training, service learning, college preparation and mentoring exercises. Saad says she already tries to show leadership at her school by volunteering for UNICEF and other service organizations.

“They said leadership is a quality colleges look at. They asked us, ‘What could you do in your community to be a leader?’ and ‘What are the traits of a leader?’” Saad says.

“I thought a leader had to be loud; I’m a shy person. At the first meeting, they said you don’t have to be a loud person to be a leader.”

“It was a really great experience. It really helped me grow as a student,” Saad says, adding she hopes to attend U-M, her “dream school.”

Alina Brantley, an Inkster High School sophomore, learned of the CEO’s programs through retired U-M professor Billy Joe Evans, a faculty adviser to her school. She then qualified for an $1,800 scholarship to attend the Math and Science Scholars summer camp attended by roughly 170 students. Brantley says it was exciting staying in Mary Markley Hall.

“I love campus and all the students and the fast pace; there’s so much freedom,” she says. “Ninety percent of students there were from out of the country. The program had different astronomy and physics classes, and we went to the observatory and stuff like that. I made 200 new Facebook friends.”

Brantley, who says she wants to work for NASA, plans a double major in oceanic and space science, and physics. “I never thought about U-M before and I was ready to leave Michigan to go to college. Now, I’m looking at it (U-M) more.”

Ivy Gregory, an Ann Arbor Pioneer High School student, also participated in the Youth Leadership Experience. “I do not exactly know what I want to study but I am very interested in astronomy, biology and some physics. I am keeping my options open, but I am definitely willing to go to the U of M if the opportunity arises,” he says.

“I want to be a mathematician. I have a passion for it,” says Walk, who attended the Math and Science Scholars summer camp. The Inkster High student tackled a variety of math problems including one where missing portions of a photograph were reconstructed using math formulas.

Walk stayed in a dorm with international students from as far away as Turkey. He says there is a 75 percent chance he’ll choose U-M, based on the experience.

The Real On College Troupe

To reach out to area students, CEO’s The Real On College Troupe, made up of U-M students, performs skits at middle and high schools and on the U-M campus.

“As an outreach performer I have had the opportunity to help educate inner-city youth on the importance of college in an exciting way,” says Lauren Winfrey, an LSA student from Detroit, adding the experience “reminds me each day why I am a student here at the University of Michigan.”

“The skits are meant to spark a dialogue amongst the youth about the stereotypes, myths and biases of going to college,” says Performance Outreach Director Helki Jackson.

Daniel Clemente Hernandez, an LSA student from Texas and Real On College Troupe performer, says the skits, written by Jackson, touch on issues including diversity, friendship and obstacles. After the performances, students in the audience want to know more.

“The kids are much more aware of the issues that our plays deal with than most people might think,” Hernandez says. “I think that we have found a way to get through to them while having fun. Its a great feeling when you know that the kids got something out of it.”