If you have ever noticed the flocks of middle schoolers who periodically venture to UNC’s campus and wondered why they were here, you can finally get an answer.
These students are from a Chapel Hill middle school, Guy B. Phillips, as well as other middle schools across the state, and come to participate in Tar Heel Preview Day, a campus tour sponsored by the UNC Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which is tailored to middle school males who come from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Guy B. Phillips brings at least 20 students to the tours per year, and for the past year, instructional technology facilitator Al McArthur has chaperoned the group.
“My school has been doing (these tours) for at least four to five years, but this year was my first year being the lead,” McArthur said.
McArthur said the tours have been a great avenue for early exposure to future academic possibilities for the students who participate at his school.
“The purpose for me in signing these guys up was to give them an experience,” McArthur said. “Even though they live so close to the University, many of them have never gone to campus and explored. It’s giving them the opportunity to meet with students, to meet with members of the faculty and staff and just give them an insight into what college would be like if that’s a place that they find in the future they want to go.”
Studies like one conducted by the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity at the University of Washington show that early exposure to higher-level academic atmospheres, such as that of a college campus, can aid students from low-income backgrounds in their future schooling success. McArthur said this is what they hope to accomplish through participation in UNC’s Tar Heel Preview Day.
“(The students) get a grasp of what the daily college experience is like from the students that walk us across campus,” McArthur said. “I think just in general, for some of these guys, the exposure to something outside of their normal day is huge.”
McArthur said the exposure to UNC athletic facilities was a big treat for the kids, as many of them had never so much as driven by Kenan Memorial Stadium or the Smith Center.
In addition to the athletic facilities, the students on these tours are given the chance to visit Wilson Library and meet other middle schoolers from different state schools.
“They took a campus tour, and they got to take a specific tour of Wilson Library,” McArthur said. “They also got to interact with other middle schoolers from across the state, so it was just cool to, one, have them on campus, but also have them interact with students across the state that looked like them.”
McArthur said Tar Heel Preview Day experience has already begun to show signs of positive results.
“A lot of them have come up to me after the fact asking me how they can, in the future, apply what they need to to go to college in general,” McArthur said. “We have a class at our school called Avid for first-generation college students, and a few of the guys that I did take got to talk with their classmates in that class and talk about the experience that they had.”
McArthur said the participation of Guy B. Phillips in Preview Day will definitely continue in the future, so you can expect to continue to see middle schoolers on campus in the years to come.
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