The National Center for Education Statistics reports that total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions decreased by four percent between 2010 and 2014, but is projected to increase by 14 percent between 2014 and 2025 from 17.3 million to 19.8 million students. Enter the Aspen Institute’s Youth & Engagement Programs to help with this change in trajectory for local high school students.
With the National League leading Washington Nationals up Interstate 295 for this year’s Battle of the Beltway against the Baltimore Orioles, several hundred Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia metropolitan area (DMV) high school students gathered at Nationals Park for One Day University for High School Students presented in partnership with One Day University and College Summit.
The daylong event convened students from 10 DMV area high schools for an experience designed to immerse participants in various aspects of college life and give them concrete next steps to continue down the path to and through college.
The day began with lectures from Georgetown University’s Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music, Anna Celenza; The University of Texas at Austin’s Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs, Jeremi Suri; and Rutgers University’s Distinguished Professor, American Studies and History, Louis Masur. Lectures were dynamic and engaging, and gave participants a sense of what college classrooms will be like for many of them.
As Masur reflected on Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence that all men are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while unpacking the rivalry between he and fellow founding father Alexander Hamilton, a hand sprang up in the crowd. “Isn’t that hypocritical since he owned slaves?” a student asked.
Each professor gave a 45-minute lecture followed by 15 minutes of questions and answers where students reflected on lecture topics and asked professors questions ranging from collegiate workload to curriculum.
DC International School Freshman, Satiya Ewing-Boyd was pleasantly surprised by the interactivity of college lectures. “I didn’t realize college lectures were so interactive. You can really talk to your professors about what they said or meant.”
After the morning of lectures, students broke for lunch where groups of roughly ten were greeted by local college students and recent graduates. College students provided small group mentoring to participants, fielding questions about their experiences in the college application and selection process, their college experiences in general, and how they plan to align their college experiences with career paths.
After experiencing college classrooms in the first half of the day, these small group discussions over lunch with near-peer mentors allowed participants to explore the aspects of college life that intrigued them most through conversations with young people who were only recently in their positions. Even when discussing difficult topics like the financial burdens of college or how to make friends in a new and strange environment, the high school participants were confronted with living proof that an enjoyable and rewarding college experience is possible.
One Day University for High School Students Senior Program Associate Rachel Sverdlove stressed that this event was intended to set high school students with college aspirations up for success by both giving them a holistic view of the college experience as well as getting them to think about specific next steps on their paths to and through college.
“When we began conceptualizing what this event could be, the idea was to bring the One Day University experience of lectures from top college professors to high school students to inspire them to get excited about college, take the necessary steps to matriculate, and excel during their years on campus. This effort would have been fundamentally incomplete if we didn’t provide young people with an experience that focused on more than just academic readiness – we want to help them understand the larger social ecosystem of a college campus, and give them tools to help them navigate the process.”
Also on hand during lunch were representatives from Northern Virginia Community College and College Bound, Inc., a Washington, D.C. based non-profit offering academic enrichment and resources to public and public charter school students in grades 8-12 to prepare for and succeed in college. NOVA Community College and College Bound hosted stations providing information to students on their options for post-secondary education.
After lunch, One Day University for High School Students participants were led through a workshop by College Summit, a nonprofit that works to place high school students across the nation on the path to college and career success. The focal point of the workshop was an activity where groups of students designed their ideal universities.
Each student designed personalized take-home checklists to ensure that they make it to the college that is right for them and their families. Of the college readiness workshop, a 9th grade student said, “creating our own college and the checklist gave me some perspective on what I need to do in order to secure my future.”
This program was made possible through thought partnership and a generous grant from the Bezos Family Foundation.