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A Day In The Life At U.Va. Gives Buford Middle School Students A Taste Of College Life

April 21, 2003 -- What do you do with middle school students who are smart, funny, maybe a little sassy, and not on track to go to college?

Send them to college.

That’s 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.

“U.Va. 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.”

The 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 mentor/mentees 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 first-hand that college is fun and challenging, and that U.Va. students do much more than party.

“We 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 they’re willing to work for it,” said Don Blake, a community outreach consultant for U.Va. who helped found the program. “If you wait until kids are in high school to capture their interest it could be too late. We 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 college.”

After a series of racial incidents in Charlottesville during the past two years there has been criticism that the University does not do enough for minority residents in the community. An 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 students. Organizers hope to expand the program to other schools in Charlottesville, noted Ida Lee Wootten, interim director of community relations.

Middle school students in the program are selected by the Talent Development Program of Charlottesville City Schools. The students have leadership abilities, high intelligence, motivation, and the ability to succeed throughout their school years, possibly leading to college. Many of them come from minority families who have little or no higher education experience. The children’s parents are required to actively support participation in the program and to interact regularly with their child’s mentor.

“Our 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.”

U.Va. student mentors commit to at least one year in the program, but most hope to continue mentoring their Buford students for the length of their time at U.Va.

“I want to share my academic life with my mentee,” said Fludd, the U.Va. first year student who is African-American. “I want to show him that if I can get here, so can he. I’m trying to be a light in his path.”

Fludd plans to stay with the program for her remaining three years at U.Va.

Contacts: Fariss Samarrai, (434) 924-3778, Donald Blake, (434) 243-9935 or Danny Wilmer, (434) 924-3939

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Monday, 21-Apr-2003 11:09:23 EDT
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