On Friday morning with spring finally in the air, over 150 BYU student volunteers gathered at Brigham Square and excitedly waited for their special guests – fifth and sixth graders.
The Center for Service and Learning hosted its annual event, Project Youth, on March 30. Its purpose is to inspire students from underprivileged elementary schools to get a college education by showing them main components of the university experience and having them interact with BYU students and faculty. About 1,200 students from 11 Title 1 schools visited the campus.
Each BYU student group leader took a dozen elementary students on a tour of campus. The tour included a visit to the Eyring Science Center with fun science experiments, the Harold B. Lee Library to the children’s book section, and even the underground tunnel on the way to the Richards Building where they happily ran, shouted and enjoyed the echo.
Kim Gardner, a fifth and sixth grade teacher at Timpanogos Elementary School, said students who participated in the event last year loved the experience and had been looking forward to coming again.
“We’re a Title I school, so some of the kids have no exposure to college life,” she said. “Some of their families have never had a college graduate. So to be on a college campus with mentor students that possibly have overcome some of the same things and had the same backgrounds as some of our kids with tougher, rougher lives, it’s great for them to see what they can overcome so they can be here [one day].”
A Title I schools often high percentages of low-income students and low academic performance rates.
During the tour, two presentations on anatomy and advertising were given to help young students get a peek of what college education is like. The children attentively listened and asked questions.
Neil Reed, a junior in environmental science, volunteered as a group leader for the event. He said he previously participated as a volunteer in the event and was hoping to see some of the students he met last year.
“I think that the main thing is to give them a guide to what college can be like,” he said. “We saw different buildings and talked to a lot of different people. Mostly I want them to be able to realize the possibilities they have as students.”
After the tour, the group gathered at the de Jong Concert Hall for a power rally. The BYU Hip Hop Club and Living Legends performed dynamic and colorful dances, and the shouts from the young audience raised the roof. Kyle Van Noy and Michael Alisa from the BYU football team spoke on determination, setting and achieving goals and hard work. A slide show followed, showing pictures of the students throughout the day.
Lastly, Casey Peterson, director at the Center for Service and Learning, spoke to the students about the importance of a college education and told them they need to start preparing today. Peterson later said in an interview that several of the BYU student group leaders were participants in Project Youth 10 or so years ago.
“It is truly inspiring and fulfilling to see the program come full circle,” he said.