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'College 101' exposes Durham middle schoolers to UNC

For most people, their first college experience is nerve-wracking.

But a group of young students met their college crash course Wednesday with cheers of enthusiasm.

Approximately 35 eighth-graders from the Carter Community School, a charter school in Durham, spent the day touring UNC’s campus.

Students for Education Reform hosted the event, called “College 101,” for the first time this year to expose middle school students to a college environment.

Carter was the first school the club visited during monthly visits to local schools.

Sophomore Malaika Hankins, the event organizer, said club members chose the school because they were impressed with the its philosophy of encouraging students to advance in school.

Olu Adeniyi, a math teacher at Carter, said the visit gave many students the opportunity to visit a college campus for the first time.

“At the middle school level, they haven’t really been out to get exposure at a college campus, so this gives them a brief glimpse of something that they can be a part of,” he said.

The students took a tour of campus and interacted with UNC students in a forum.

“It’s really big,” Carter student Kevin Gadsden said. “You can do whatever you want, go to classes whenever you want, make your own schedule.”

But club members said the visit aimed to do more than just show students the size of the University.

“The biggest thing is showing them that college is totally accessible,” sophomore Jon Hebert said.

Many of the students’ parents may not have gone to college, so the visit helps make students believe that college is an obtainable and real expectation, Hebert said.

Reaching students while they are still in middle school, which is often an overlooked segment of the school system, is also key, said Leigh Bordley, a member of the Board of Education for Durham Public Schools.

“It’s so important for kids to be envisioning their future,” she said.

“These students are making decisions — whether they are active or passive — that will determine what post-secondary education they can get.”

Many students said their favorite stop on the tour was experimenting in UNC’s science labs.

The students witnessed chemicals changing colors, broke frozen flowers on the floor and made foam.

“Getting exposure to careers in science and allowing them to explore is pretty fun for these kids,” Adeniyi said.

Given the success of the event, club members said they hope to make the College 101 visits an annual event and expand the visits to include more students, Hankins said.

Junior George Ramsay, the club chapter leader, said the visit helped students think about their own paths to college.

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“(My favorite part has been) hearing the individual stories about how these kids plan to not only reach college but also succeed in school,” he said.

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