On. Nov. 7, the Student Union’s Great Hall filled with 350 local male-identified 6th-8th graders, eager for a glimpse into their potential as scholars. After being led in a raucous chant of “TAR!” “HEEL!” by members of the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion team and retrieving their “Roadmap to College,” a brochure that provides month by month steps towards matriculating into college, the students were charged and ready to attend one of ten academic sessions across campus.
The sessions, which covered such topics as “Using Business for the Public Good,” “Career Opportunities in Athletics,” “All about Nursing” and “Exploring World Cultures through Art,” among others, were led by faculty and staff who partnered with D&I to ensure that participants were introduced to a wide variety of scholastic possibilities.
In the “Education and Housing Justice” session, Adrienne Hall and Carlos Serrano, PhD students in geography, discussed youth power mapping and social justice with the students. The class was stunned to learn about the inequity in public education, based on geographical location. A slide depicting the school to prison pipeline led to a conversation about such inequities. “Schools are becoming more like prisons, with barbed wire, metal detectors and police presence. What are these political processes that allow certain students to flourish while black and brown students don’t?” asked Carlos, who also noted that the Chapel Hill public school system used to be segregated, but also boasts a history of citizens participating in sit-ins that led to civil rights changes in the late ‘60s.
In another classroom, Carolina Center for Public Service’s Becca Bender and Kate Palmer led the engaging session, “Your Personal Philosophy of Service.” When they posed the question of how the students would provide direct, hands-on service to those in need, hands rose quickly as a lively interaction ensued. “By giving or donating food,” responded one of them. “By taking food to people who can’t get out of the house,” answered another. “Or planting food so people can eat,” said yet another. What about the bigger picture? Becca challenged them to consider how they could help globally. “Riding a bus and not using gas,” responded one of the students, noting, “that way, we’d save the ozone.”
Seeing that they were thinking creatively and along philanthropic lines, Kate asked the students how doing service impacts them, producing a rewarding avalanche of responses: “To be a better person,” “To be more grateful for what you have,” “To help our country” and “To help people and help ourselves.” When the youngsters left, they were visibly buoyed by how their actions can have a positive impact on others, and how they can put that into effect by interning for non-profits, participating in alternative break service trips or being part of service scholars’ programs in college.
It is precisely this response that Tar Heel Preview Day aims to elicit. Objectives of the event, housed in Student Access and Success (SAS), a division of D&I, include providing an enjoyable experience at UNC for students and counselors (50 of the latter attended, as well); exposing students to palatable college prep and access information; providing resources that are useful for parents and counselors and sparking students’ interest in college and UNC.
Demand from area schools to participate in this annual event has become so strong that, for the first time, a spring session is being planned to accommodate requests. “The goal of Tar Heel Preview Day is to expose students to college and to give them resources to succeed in high school and be successful college applicants,” said SAS Director, Rachel Tates. “It is rewarding to see this program continue to grow and see more students affected.”
Written by Adrianne Gibilisco