On a beautiful spring Tuesday, Tanya Madsen's Advance Via Individual Determination (AVID) students from converged on the Saint Mary's College of California and the University of California at Berkeley campuses.
The importance of first-generation, college-bound youths visiting a college campus during the middle school years might be a catalyst in "changing the cycle" of poor educational opportunity for students and families. Last week, Ms. Madsen approached North Bay Youth Academy/Novato Chess Club (aka HYA) regarding a tour of Saint Mary's for her seventh- and eighth-grade AVID students.
HYA met her students at the St. Jean Baptist de La Salle statue on the Moraga campus. In 1863, the college was founded on the the Lasallian, Catholic and liberal arts mission of educating the poor. As a 1983 SMC graduate, I am embrace the Lasallian mission of "inclusive education," so meeting these wonderful young people is fulfilling the mission and faith.
During our two-hour tour, we engaged a diverse group of undergraduates who were more than willing to impart their knowledge, each providing personal reflections on their journey to college. None more poignant than the Remy Smith-Lewis, '12, who is graduating May, 19. He reflected on his AVID trip as a high school sophomore.
"This is so unique for me to talk with you today, as I remember being a AVID student and making a trip like this, as if it were yesterday," Remy said. Initially he attended a school in the South then transferred to SMC in his seconnd year of college.
We met SMC basketball star Mitchell Young, '13, in the dining hall, and he spent 10 minutes addressing the youngsters. Hamilton students never met anyone from Australia, so it was a unique experience for one young man who asked, "Are you from Russia?" It is educational moments like these that are the catalyst to understanding a broader world view. I am sure Ms. Madsen had the map of Australia and Russia ready for them on Wednesday at school.
We visited the library, dining hall, theater, a Socratic classroom, engaging several students who truly represented what the Lasallian mission is all about. As the Hamilton Hawks boarded the bus toward the next stop, UC Berkeley, I was inspired by how a college trip of 30 students can be an unexpected life changing experience for elementary/middle school kids. Many thanks to Ms. Madsen, who understands a classroom education is but a small part of the overall motivation.
By raising the expectation of AVID students; they see themselves in college — college students of the future. However, individual inspirations are a matter of choice.
Read here about my personal life-changing experience and passion in the Saint Mary's College of California, Alumni Magazine, Cover Story, Autumn 2008, "Paying it Forward, Sharing the Spirit."