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Conference to give underrepresented students a taste of college

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — About 250 Champaign and Urbana students will get a taste of college and help preparing for it in an all-day event Friday (Nov. 18) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Multicultural Youth Conference, in its second year, is aimed primarily at minority, low-income and other students underrepresented on college campuses, says Julia Johnson Connor, interim assistant director of the Center for Democracy in a Multiracial Society and one of the event’s organizers. Many of those participating would be first-generation college students.

About 130 attended last year’s conference. The students come from grades seven through 12.

“We want to provide students with ‘college knowledge’ – information related to higher education preparation – while strengthening the bridge between local public schools and the university,” Connor said. “We’re hoping that the students come away from the conference with more confidence about applying to a college or university and with a better understanding about what they can expect as a student.”

The students will be divided into three groups according to grade level (7-8, 9-11 and 12), with each getting a day tailored to their concerns related to college, Connor said. They will get information about various student services, including tutoring, advising and pre-college programs. They also will be exposed to various academic opportunities on campus and will tour facilities such as the cultural houses, the Illini Union and the University Library, she said.

Middle school students will be given a hands-on experience in mini-labs that showcase academic and career opportunities. High school students will get additional information on topics such as college applications, writing personal statements, setting goals, housing and budgeting while in college.

About 200 of the students will be coming from Champaign schools, and many of those students participate in AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination), a program now in its second year in the Champaign middle and highs schools.

“We just felt that the AVID kids were really the type of students that they were looking for for the multicultural conference,” according to Linda Page, the AVID coordinator for the Unit 4 school district. The goals of the conference closely match the goals of the program, she said.

“I think it’s a great thing to get kids tied into the university and show them what can happen if they’re successful,” she said.

Connor noted that the first conference was suggested and organized by a group of graduate students in the department of educational policy studies. This year’s event was organized by a university committee of students and staff members chaired by Roy Saldaña Jr. of the Office of Minority Student Affairs.

For more information, contact Saldaña at 217-333-0054.