Vision Days Broaden College Insights for High School Students

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Fellow

In order to be successful in college, students should begin thinking about their higher education options early in high school. This is the message behind “Vision Days,” sponsored by the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), a unit within The University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs.

The idea came out of the annual New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, sponsored annually by CCBP, as well as from an institutional effort to reach more in-state students from traditionally underserved areas.

Ashley Meadows, who teaches English at Thomasville High School, said the opportunity to bring dozens of ninth graders to UA’s campus was a great experience.

“My ninth graders were saying they needed to know more about this stuff now because by the time they are juniors or seniors it is too late,” said Meadows, now in her 12th year of teaching. “It’s good for them to know that the classes they are taking now, those grades are cumulative and will affect scholarships down the line, and affect them just getting into college.”

Meadows, who brought students Oct. 23 and Oct. 25 to visit UA’s engineering, nursing, business, arts and sciences, education, social work, human environmental sciences and communication programs, said the exposure alone was invaluable.

“It’s so good for these young kids to be able to see the world outside of our small town and classroom,” said Meadows, who brought 30 students on both days.

Students from both rural and urban high schools attended Vision Days. They not only learned about different majors offered at the University, but also about the requirements for admission and scholarship opportunities.

“I wanted to learn more about what I need to do to get into college and what kinds of clubs they have at college,” said Henry Smoot, a ninth grader from Woodlawn High School, a four-year magnet school in Birmingham. Smoot said he dreamed about “owning my own business and being a mechanical engineer. I feel better now that I see other students from the school I come from that made it, and it makes me feel like I can make it.”

Keontay Madison said he attended the tour to find out about scholarships and academic requirements. “I learned that if you want a scholarship you need at least a 3.5 GPA and I learned about things you can do to qualify” said Madison, who was visiting UA for the first time. “You need to have enough time to prepare; 12th grade goes by fast. Now I have four years to think about what I want to do.”

Vision Days targets high school students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit campus with their parents or guardians “to give them an idea of what their options are early in their high school careers so that they are not scrambling their junior and senior years to fix their grades or try to get into college,” said Daniela Susnara, a kinesiology doctoral graduate assistant in the College of Education. “We’re trying to put college at the front of their minds so they can be proactive their freshman and sophomore years and also get them to set some early goals.”

In addition to students from Woodlawn and Thomasville, students from Amelia Love Johnson, Berry, Greene County, Sumter Central, Carver, Greensboro, Wenonah and Pickens County High Schools also attended Vision Days on Oct. 16, 18, 23, and 25.