Program prepares high schoolers

Michelle Kibiger

Going away to college is a big step for high school graduates, but 82 high school students decided to give it a trial run this summer in the University Summer Honors College.
The program allows 11th- and 12th-grade students to take University honors classes and earn four credits while living in the dorms and experiencing campus life. During the three-week program that ended Friday, students spent four hours in class each day.
The main purpose of the program is for students to get a taste of what it’s like to go away to college.
“Most of (the students) haven’t had any chance to visit a university for any length of time,” said Kevin McCabe, an economics professor who teaches in the program. “They really get into the atmosphere of things.”
During the three weeks, students participated in various class-related activities including a trip to the Guthrie Theater and the Mille Lacs Chippewa Indian Reservation. They could choose two classes in subjects such as English, studio arts, philosophy, biology, physics and American studies. Courses are taught by University professors.
Even though the intense schedule placed high homework demands on the students, the experience was not all work. They went to Valleyfair and participated in a round robin sand volleyball tournament.
“They learned a lot of the responsibilities of living on their own,” said Joel Bergstrom, senior program assistant. He said the students are the type who would become very involved once they get to college.
Students lived in Territorial Hall with eight program assistants who set up activities for them and made sure their needs were met. The assistants, all University students, served a “camp counselor” role by helping the students deal with personal problems.
Also, the students had to check in with the assistants before they could go anywhere off-campus.
Irl Carter, a professor in the School of Social Work who taught classes during the program, said he was impressed with the program assistants and how they worked with the students.
“These are the kinds of students we need around,” said McCabe, adding that the students were as good as some freshman and sophomore undergraduates he has taught. “I enjoy working with them so much.”
Carter said the students are very bright. He said not only is the program beneficial for the students, but it’s very rewarding for the faculty members involved.
“It’s a chance for me to teach a subject that I don’t get to teach the rest of the year,” Carter said.
The program cost students $690, which included tuition, room and board, fees and textbooks.
The University recruits students from Minnesota, western Wisconsin and eastern North and South Dakota for the program. They come from everywhere though, said Carol Ann Dickinson, program coordinator.
This year, students traveled from as far as the Bahamas, France and Louisiana to participate in the program.
In order to be eligible, students entering 12th grade had to rank in the top 5 percent of their class, and those entering 11th had to rank in the top 20 percent. Students overwhelmingly recommend the experience, and some who attend while in 11th grade return for another year.
Others said the experience taught them the resources they can find at a major university. Charles Johnson from Baton Rouge, Louisiana said he now plans on attending a big school because it would have the best resources and the top minds.
Thomas said her fears about a big school were allayed by the experience. “Big schools like the U don’t seem so overwhelming now.”
Admissions statistics show that 49 percent of students participating in the program attend the University at some time during their undergraduate careers.
The program was offered for the first time in the summer of 1985, and Carter said he would like to see the program continue despite recent budget cuts at the University. “I hope the University doesn’t see this as a luxury that they can’t afford.”