St. Thomas Reaches out to Youth Through On-campus Early College Awareness Programs

Have you noticed groups of middle school students touring the campus or going through the pizza line this year? St. Thomas has been reaching out to local youth to raise awareness about college for years, but CILCE (Center for Intercultural Learning and Community Engagement) began to formally coordinate these efforts in 2008. On average, CILCE hosts three programs each month during the school year and more than 600 students visited St. Thomas through these events during the past academic year.

The next CILCE visit will be this Friday, April 23, when 90 sixth graders from Farnsworth Aerospace, a UST partner school in St. Paul, will spend the day on campus. This event, co-sponsored by the School of Education, will include an introduction to college, a “scavenger hunt” tour, a pizza lunch and hands-on engineering activities led by Dr. AnnMarie Polsenberg Thomas and her students. When you see them on campus, please help us by making these students feel welcome at St. Thomas and excited about higher education opportunities.

A visiting fifth grade student from Andersen Middle School learns about sensory perception from UST students in Dr. Roxanne Prichard’s psychology class.

A visiting fifth grade student from Andersen School learns about sensory perception from UST students in Dr. Roxanne Prichard’s psychology class.

CILCE hosts students for campus visits primarily from Minneapolis and St. Paul (from elementary and middle schools as well as community programs), and also has given presentations to parent groups about how to prepare for their children’s futures. CILCE staff and student leaders occasionally speak to local students at their schools as well, recently leading activities and presentations at Murray Junior High in St. Paul.

CILCE partners with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and other community organizations on larger early college awareness initiatives; two performances by CLIMB Theatre actors in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium motivated hundreds of eighth graders to consider post-secondary education.

When school groups visit St. Thomas, they typically start with an “introduction to college” activity, learning about the importance of higher education, different types of institutions and academic programs, ways to pay for college, opportunities to get involved on campus, and how to prepare for college in middle and high school.

Then they take a mini-tour to see various components of a college and learn about the campus center, the library, residence halls and classroom buildings. All the differences between middle school and college amaze them. Throughout the visit, students take part in fun and age-appropriate games and activities related to college, usually led by UST students. Most visits also include lunch in the cafeteria so youth can get a real college student experience, which is always a favorite part of the day.

CILCE is pleased to have had many opportunities to partner with St. Thomas faculty, classes or student groups on these visits; visiting youth love to meet college students and teachers and participate in engaging educational presentations. For example, a group of psychology students from Dr. Roxanne Prichard’s class led games and activities about sensory perception to multiple groups of fifth graders from Andersen School in Minneapolis.

On another visit, Dr. Sarah Schmalenberger and a group of music students taught African rhythms and led Sandburg Middle School (Robbinsdale) students in drumming exercises. Last fall, UST business students helped Washington Technology Middle School (St. Paul) students learn about marketing, and together they designed wristbands that read “Dream. Believe. Achieve. College.” All students now receive these wristbands during CILCE visits as a reminder that college is a possibility for them.

 CILCE is grateful for everyone who helps make this programming successful (from presenters to the Office of Admissions to Dining Services), allowing St. Thomas to make long-lasting impacts on local youth. Participating in CILCE Early College Awareness work offers many reciprocal benefits: Events are meaningful and exciting and a great way for clubs to fulfill service hours, as well as a chance for students or faculty to get their feet wet with a taste of service-learning.

Are you interested in helping to promote post-secondary education to young students? Here's an opportunity soon: A group of seventh graders from Sandburg Middle School will be on campus on Thursday, April 29, and your assistance would be appreciated.

Contact CILCE, (651) 962-6800, and get involved.