Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

July 26, 2012

High School Seniors Experience College Life at Shades of Purple Conference

Shades of Purple Summer Conference

Lindbergh High School senior Shondre Sims has always been a Washington State Cougar fan. But after attending the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity’s inaugural Shades of Purple Summer Conference, he admitted his loyalty may have swayed.

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Sims was one of 100 underrepresented minority rising high school seniors who experienced life as a UW college student during the three-day conference, July 23-25. Almost 120 students attended the first conference session July 16-18, while close to 140 students are expected to attend the final session, July 30-Aug. 1.

Hosted by OMA&D’s Recruitment and Outreach unit, Shades of Purple was created to encourage underrepresented minority students to pursue higher education and give them the opportunity to experience the UW. The majority of participants come from across the state, however a few traveled as far as from Oregon, California, Illinois and Georgia.

shades of purple conference

OMA&D Recruitment and Outreach Director Karl Smith addresses the Shades of Purple attendees.

“It is our intent that students will come out of the conference with an understanding of the UW and the resources available to them,” OMA&D Outreach and Admissions Counselor Merissa Tatum said. “We hope they are more knowledgeable about our application process and have an outline or rough draft of their college admissions essay. Ultimately, they should come away prepared to apply to the UW when the application goes live in the fall. We also hope to expose them to the many opportunities at UW, leading them to discover the diversity and unity that exists within our campus community.”

Sims, from Renton, Wash., learned about the conference through his career counselor. She encouraged him to attend in spite of his interest in WSU.

“I came here and I actually fell in love with it,” Sims said. “It’s going to be a hard decision if I get accepted to both schools.”


Students receive personal instruction on their essay writing.

During the conference, students live in the dorms and participate in writing and application workshops, cultural activities and panel discussions. They have an opportunity to visit various campus departments and attend a mock college classroom session.

Activities also include a tour of the Husky Athletic and IMA facilities, as well as an “Amazing Dawg Race” competition.

“Conference attendees are provided an amazing opportunity being exposed to many aspects of the UW that a typical prospective student may not have access to,” Tatum said.

The best part for Charlene Dorby-Teja from Kent-Meridian High School was learning about campus resources and meeting OMA&D staff members.

“The highlight was all the information that we received and getting to know all these people who really want to help us,” she said. “It’s really beneficial, especially when we’re applying.”

Neira Jimenez, from Grandview High School in the Yakima Valley, has two older sisters that attend the UW, but she still had some apprehension about college before attending Shades of Purple.

“Before I got here, I was really terrified of what to expect,” she said. “I didn’t know how college life was really going to be. Here I felt like it was a relief, they calmed my nerves. It seemed like this is a place where you grow and you can be yourself. You can explore a bunch of things and find your actual passion here.”

The Shades of Purple Conference is one of a few summer programs hosted by OMA&D that introduce high school students to college resources. The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP)’s Dare to Dream Academy provided similar resources to migrant high school students from across the state, June 24-29. Upward Bound, a program that provides college entrance support to low-income and first-generation students from Seattle’s Franklin and Cleveland High Schools, hosts a Summer Academy on campus, July 25-Aug. 2.


Conference attendees (clockwise from bottom) Evin Tolentino (Bellarmine Prep HS), Kabrina Riley (Stadium HS), Joseph Perez (Bellarmine Prep), Nkeiruka Medani (Bellarmine Prep HS), Olivia Smith (Decatur HS), Elexa Moore (Bellarmine Prep)