Giving youth ‘the whole picture’ of campus

By Melissa Oveson

Brightly colored flags and sidewalk-chalk pictures led the way for over 1,200 sixth graders as they piled out of a long row of yellow buses and onto the U campus. The elementary school students’ day at the U allowed them to experience a part of college through workshops, which included topics such as political science, bird mating calls and even a workshop about how to ask college women out.

The lectures were part of Project Youth, now in its 17th year of operation. The project brought sixth graders from across the valley to campus Tuesday to encourage students to pursue higher education. Fifteen elementary schools came this year, most classified as Title I, meaning they are located in low-income neighborhoods.

“This is such a fragile time in (these students’) lives,” said Jordan Mann, a volunteer for the project and senior in psychology. “It’s a great opportunity to aim them in a better direction.”

After a short pep rally in the Huntsman Center with several kooky mascots, the sixth graders took over campus as more than 100 student volunteers led the youth to workshops in different departments. Some elementary students toured the campus while others used their new-learned ‘skills’ as they attempted to ask out female college students.

David Taylor, a sixth-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School, said he was excited about a bird calling class his students attended in the biology department.

“We had about 50 kids just sitting there transfixed as they watched the presentation,” Taylor said. “I was very impressed.”

In another presentation, students from Columbia Elementary School learned about political science at the Hinckley Institute of Politics. David Wright, a sixth-grade teacher, recounted the presentation and said the kids were fascinated with all they learned.

“We wanted to show kids a fun side of campus as well as the academics,” said Natalie Van Tongeren, coordinator for the event. “It gives them the whole picture of campus.”

After a lunch serenaded by the U Marching Band, the youths gathered for another rally at the Huntsman Center. Cheering loud enough to rock the rafters, the kids tried to win U T-shirts and water bottles from a group of sports mascots.

“We tried to bring in a diverse group of speakers to represent the crowd,” Mann said. Guest speakers included graduate students Matthew Krabill and Matthew Siemionko, recent graduate Nicola Salienra and KSL 5 meteorologist Kevin Eubank.

Each shared their own experiences at the U and encouraged students to achieve success with higher education.

“College needs you just as much as you need it,” Salienra said. “But if you only remember one thing today, remember that the U is so much better than BYU.”

Kevin Eubank finished the rally with words of encouragement for students to chase their dreams and find a career that makes them happy. He spoke of his own struggles to become a meteorologist after every station in Salt Lake City rejected his application video.

“I don’t know what you want to be, but someone somewhere will tell you you’re not good enough,” Eubank said. “Don’t believe them, because you decide for yourself.”

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Tyler Cobb

MUSS board members lead a group of sixth graders in Utah Man during one of many workshops that made up Project Youth.