Twin Cities high schoolers get a glimpse of college life

Hundreds of high school students visited the University for College Day: Your Future, Your Choices.

by Liala Helal

A group of high school students stood against the railing of the Washington Avenue Bridge, gazed over the Mississippi River and quietly listened for the sound of the Campus Connector below.

“There it goes!” many of them shouted as they heard the loud engine and felt the rumble of the bus beneath them.

They wondered how long it would take them to finish walking across the bridge to the West Bank to visit University student Nicholas Yu’s music class.

“I go back and forth (from East Bank to West Bank) all the time,” Yu told the students as he walked across the bridge with them.

Hundreds of sophomores and juniors from St. Paul and Minneapolis high schools visited the University on Monday for College Day: Your Future, Your Choices.

The program focused on minority high school students and first-generation students, said Danelle Johnson, the event’s main organizer and Black Student Union member.

“Those are the students who are most at risk for not going to college after high school,” she said.

She said the program strategically placed the high school students with college students of similar backgrounds and interests. High school students could then learn about college life from people with the same backgrounds, she said.

“We’re providing an opportunity for students to share their experiences in a way that is both meaningful and relevant,” Johnson said.

She said one high school student said that he had never thought about going to college before coming to College Day.

“That’s the type of student this program is made for,” Johnson said.

The Black Student Union came up with the idea for College Day and later got other cultural organizations, such as La Raza Student Cultural Center and the Asian-American Student Union, to get involved as leaders.

Many leaders, including Renato Fitzpatrick, exchanged phone numbers with high school students to serve as contacts for future questions about college applications or college life.

“It was a good experience to be able to give potential college students a chance to see this world that they’ve only heard about,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said that he wished he would’ve had this opportunity in high school.

As the day progressed, the high school students took tours of campus, attended informational workshops and shadowed University students’ classes.

The group of students from Patrick Henry High School, led by University students Brian Kao and Catherine Wang from the Asian-American Student Union, went to see Goldy’s Gameroom in Coffman Union.

As soon as they entered, it seemed they didn’t want to leave.

Many “wows” and “oohs” were heard as the students explored the game room and watched University students play “Dance Dance Revolution.”

They asked how long college students get “free time” to play there.

“It depends on the way your classes are set up, but in college, you’re given more responsibility to get your work done,” Kao told them.

The group also attended Yu’s concert choir class rehearsal. Yu’s professor let the high school students participate.

They did breathing exercises while lifting their arms, made singing noises with their lips, and sang odd words with the class such as “nay-nee-na” and “weeoo weeoo weeoo zing zing za za za” as the professor played the piano.

As the high school students left the class, University students sang “bye” to them.

Patrick Henry High School junior Nong Vue said the program made her want to come to the University.

Wang said, “I think they got an idea of what college life is really like.”

Bryce Ratliff, a Patrick Henry High School sophomore, said, “I’ve been here a few times, but I never really got to see anything like this.”

At the end of the day, the students’ group leaders asked them what they thought about college life.

Ratliff responded, “It’s the way to go.”