Youths get taste of college
by Peggy Harrison
student Janay Jones (left) works with Alvita Adams, an eighth-grader
at Buford Middle School, during one of the study sessions
held in the schools library this spring. Jones is one
of some 40 U.Va. students who volunteer their time in U.Va.s
Day in the Life mentorship program. U.Va. students
are paired one-on-one with their middle-school mentees.
program is result of efforts to improve town-gown relations after
recent attacks on college students by area adolescents.
By Fariss Samarrai
Athletics director Craig Littlepage speaks to participants
in the Day in the Life program at a picnic April
22, which marked the end of the programs first year.
do you do with middle school students who are smart, funny, maybe
a little sassy, and not on track to go to college?
them to college.
what the University of Virginia is doing with about 40 students
from Buford Middle School in Charlottesville.
The Buford students are getting a taste of college life firsthand
from U.Va. students who are serving as mentors, inspirational
guides and friends.
students are a part of the Charlottesville community, said
first-year student and mentor Cassidy Fludd. We should share
our college life with kids in the community.
program, called A Day in the Life, is in its first
year, and already the Buford students have spent a lot more than
a day in the life of their U.Va. student mentors. The pairs study
together, go to U.Va. sports and social events together, attend
U.Va. classes together and stay in regular communication, even
during school breaks. The Buford students are seeing firsthand
that college is fun and challenging, and that college students
do more than party.
want the middle school students to see college life through the
lives of our students and to realize that college is within their
reach, if theyre willing to work for it, said Don
Blake, a community outreach consultant for U.Va. who helped found
photos by Fariss Samarrai
at a picnic listen to speakers, including Littlepage, talk
about plans for Day in the Life.
are focusing on kids in middle school because they are at an age
where they can be turned on to school and learning. We are demystifying
a series of racial incidents in Charlottesville in the past two
years, the University has been criticized for neglecting minority
residents in the community.
initiative of U.Va.s Community Relations Office, the Day
in the Life program addresses these concerns by promoting tangible
interactions between U.Va. and local youngsters.
plan to expand the program to other schools in Charlottesville,
said Ida Lee Wootten, interim director of community relations.
Young people currently in the program will be able to continue
with it through their high school years.
by Peggy Harrison
student Myra Franklin, right, mentors several students during
a study session at Buford Middle School Library. Franklin
will be president of U.Va.s Black Student Alliance next
year. Her goal is to enlist a diverse group of U.Va. students,
including all members of the BSA, in various volunteer efforts,
such as Day in the Life.
school students are selected by the Talent Development Program
of Charlottesville City Schools. The students have demonstrated
leadership abilities, high intelligence, motivation and college
come from minority families who have little or no higher education
experience. The childrens parents are required to be active
participants in the program and to interact regularly with their
goal is to help these students realize that higher education is
an achievable goal, said Danny Wilmer, U.Va. community outreach
officer. We are trying to build respect and appreciation
for higher education.
student mentors commit to at least one year in the program, but
most hope to continue mentoring their Buford counterparts until
want to share my academic life with my mentee, said Fludd,
a first-year African-American student. I want to show him
that if I can get here, so can he. Im trying to be a light
in his path.
plans to stay with the program for her remaining three years at
U.Va, guiding her pupil along the path.
organizers recently held an end-of-year picnic for participants
to celebrate the first year of the program. The students played
football and volleyball, ate plenty of hamburgers, hotdogs and
cookies, and were awarded T-shirts and other mementos. It was
clear the middle schoolers and U.Va. students had formed strong
bonds together as pairs and as members of the larger group.
Littlepage, U.Va. athletics director, spoke about the importance
of perseverance in overcoming failure and roadblocks, a trait
he said all successful people share. You have to find the
strength inside of you to achieve the things you want to do in
life, he said.
W. Hutchinson, superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools,
also spoke with students and expressed his appreciation for the
Jefferson, a former U.Va. football player now working on a masters
degree in education, mentored students at Jack Jouett Middle School
during his undergraduate years. He is now serving as an informal
consultant to A Day in the Life program.
knew that U.Va. students would jump at the chance to do this,
he said. And it means a great deal to the middle school
kids to know that college kids care about them.
middle schooler in the program, Brandon Thompkins, said his mentor,
fourth-year economics major Connie Dong, is like a big sister
to him. They study together every Saturday, go to events together
and learn from each other.
wants to be a carpenter, so Dong takes him to construction sites
on Grounds to look at the progress of the work. She also subtly
encourages him to think about college and to keep an open mind
to a variety of career options.
curious by nature, and asks a lot of questions, she said.
I try to open his horizons and to perpetuate his interests.
is starting a job at IBM in Northern Virginia after she graduates,
but she said she plans to continue to visit Brandon when she can
and to take him on a trip to Washington to see the museums and
the other mentors, she is giving a lot more than a day in the