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Early Outreach Visits Encourage Students of All Ages to Think About College

2015 Kinder to College
Meadow Ridge Elementary School students took a campus tour led by the OMA&D Multicultural Outreach & Recruitment student ambassadors Photo: Erin Rowley

A group of campus visitors turned a few heads when they toured the University of Washington on a sunny day back in April.

They could barely contain their excitement at Drumheller Fountain and bounded up the Grand Staircase in Suzzallo Library on their way to the Reading Room (also known as the Harry Potter room). Accompanied by teachers and plenty of parent supervision, they were required to hold hands as they walked through Red Square so as not to get lost. They wore matching t-shirts that read “Class of 2027.”

On April 21, 80 kindergartners from Meadow Ridge Elementary School visited the UW as a part of the Kent School District’s Kinder to College program. They spent the morning on campus to participate in a STEM activity and receive a tour led by UW students.

The event was hosted by the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity’s (OMA&D) Multicultural Outreach and Recruitment team in partnership with the College of Education. It was also one of several early outreach visits facilitated by OMA&D in April, May and June that brought over 2,500 students ranging from ages 5-18 to campus.

The visits were arranged in collaboration with various local school districts, community organizations and other UW partners with one primary purpose in mind: get young people to start thinking about college, especially those who lack access to college preparation resources.

“We are seeking to create an affinity for postsecondary education at an early age by providing exposure to our campus that is inclusive to first-generation, economically disadvantaged and underrepresented populations,” said Christopher Wells, OMA&D director of community engagement and strategic initiatives.

Benefits of Early Exposure

2015 Kinder to College
Class of 2027! Photo: Erin Rowley

The UW is one of 12 college partners of the Kinder to College program which facilitates visits for kindergartners from nearly all 28 elementary schools in the Kent School District (KSD).

According to Randy Nuñez, ’02, KSD college and career community/family liaison, the three goals of the program are to increase early college awareness for their youngest students, foster parent involvement and build relationships with local college partners.

Nuñez, who is a first-year doctoral student at the UW, says he is often asked if kindergartners are too young to benefit from the experience. “For us, that’s where the parent piece becomes an important role,” he said.

Nuñez pointed out that since the program was established in 2009-2010, on average nearly 550 parents per year have attended college visits with their children.

“Our parents are the first and primary teachers of our students, so to be able to have them as part of the experience and have those conversations at home is key,” he said. “What’s interesting about our parents who participate, at least half of them say it’s been their first time on a college campus. It also addresses the first-generation barrier. For our parents to be involved in the college conversation, we also want them on a college campus.”

Meadow Ridge kindergarten teacher Lindsey Ellwanger agreed that the experience won’t end when the campus visit is over. “In class we will continue to talk about it and hopefully it will stick in their memories.”

Experiencing College Life

Hamilton Middle School Visit
Hamilton Middle School students attended an academic workshop during their visit to the UW. Photo: OMA&D Multicultural Outreach & Recruitment

OMA&D’s spring early outreach visits also brought middle and high school students to campus. Some of those events featured instruction from UW faculty and staff, giving the older students an “inside-the-classroom” look at college life.

For instance, in May OMA&D hosted 30 members of Hamilton International Middle School’s La Chispa Club, a Latino student leadership group. That event featured a science-focused academic workshop led by Tory Brundage, an adviser and student outreach coordinator with the UW School of Public Health.

A June visit for ninth-graders in Chief Sealth High School’s dual language program featured an academic workshop with UW faculty members from the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies, as well as the Department of Linguistics. Students also had an opportunity to hear three local industry professionals talk about their work during a panel discussion.

Students affiliated with community organizations also had opportunities to spend time at the UW. OMA&D partnered with HERO, a non-profit that provides academic and intervention services for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented middle school males in the Federal Way Public School District. HERO brought 50 of its students to campus for an identity workshop and campus tour in May.

These particular events are just a few of the many that OMA&D Multicultural Outreach and Recruitment hosts on campus and throughout the state that prepare underrepresented minority, first-generation and low-income students for college. Up next, they will take their annual Shades of Purple Summer Conference, normally limited to campus, to locations across Washington, July 20-August 14. Shades of Purple serves rising high school seniors interested in attending the UW.

“Our unit’s outreach efforts are intentional about addressing the barriers to postsecondary education by supporting and providing pre-college preparation and increasing access for each student that we engage with,” Wells said.

Kinder to College Photo Gallery

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Photos by Erin Rowley