BYU Project Youth event inspires kids to seek college education

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Project Youth invites elementary school kids to experience college in a fun way in hopes to inspire them to attend when they are older.

The upcoming Project Youth aims to show fifth- and sixth-graders from Title I schools in Utah County the excitement of a college experience. The event runs Thursday, March 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. across the BYU campus.

“The point of our program is that (the kids) are at an important age for identity building,” said Executive Program Director Cammie Jones. “If they can envision themselves as a college student and have it enter their mind as a possibility, they’re more likely to go to college.”

The program has been running for as long as Jones can remember. She said schools often contact the program to ensure they can be involved in the program again in coming years.

Lauren Nicholson
A volunteer BYU student leads a group of elementary school children in a campus tour for Project Youth 2017. The event inspires students in Title I schools to pursue higher education. (Lauren Nicholson)

Current BYU students sign up to be volunteers at the event. The program currently has 110 volunteers signed up, but Program Director Patrick Kelly said they are hoping to have 150 volunteers. The volunteers will meet Wednesday night before the event for a quick training meeting and early Thursday morning before the event in Brigham Square. The volunteers will get their group assignments, T-shirts and set up for the activity, according to Program Director Ben Roberts.

Students from seven schools around Utah County will bus to BYU to meet up with the college volunteers outside the Wilkinson Student Center. This year the event is planning to host around 800 students, but in the past up to 1,000 students have attended, Jones said.

The schools are all Title I schools, meaning “they come from a lower income district,” according to Roberts.

“Most come from families where the parents don’t have college educations. It’s a diverse group,” Roberts said.

The kids will be split into groups of 10 and assigned a college volunteer for the day, according to Roberts.

According to Jones, Y-Serve Director Chris Crippen mentioned there are students who attended this program as elementary school kids who are now BYU students volunteering to lead groups.

Lauren Nicholson
Project Youth 2017 kids pose for a photo with their volunteer group leader, a BYU Student who will show the kids the fun of college. Project Youth is meant to inspire the attendants to want a college experience. (Lauren Nicholson)

The volunteers will start with get-to-know-you games until the event officially begins. The volunteers will then lead the elementary students through three rotations.

One rotation will be a campus tour in which the volunteer can show the students his or her favorite places to study or specific classroom buildings; the remaining two rotations will be short lectures from BYU professors, which are meant to get the kids excited for college while also giving them a glimpse of what a college class is like, according to Jones.

BYU professors from the math, finance, physics and chemistry departments have volunteered. One career advisement volunteer will also talk about future options for the kids, Jones said.

The chemistry department puts on Y-Chem magic show, which Kelly said is always fun for the kids.

After the three rotations, all the volunteers and kids will meet in the de Jong Concert Hall in the HFAC for the Power Rally. Groups from across campus will perform, including Living Legends, the BYU Hip Hop Club and Beyond Measure. There will also be a few keynote speakers from BYU Athletics to excite the kids, according to Jones.

After the Power Rally, the kids can either eat their own sack lunches in the WSC Garden Court or bus back to their schools, depending on their school administration.

Program Director Sierra Sgro said the most important thing for volunteers is to connect with the kids. The volunteers can’t inspire the kids if they aren’t building a relationship and trying to be friends with them, she said.

“If (the kids) have someone to look up to — the BYU volunteers — and have one-on-one time with someone in college, then they want to follow that path,” Jones said. “It makes (the kids) feel like college is a fun thing they can do.”

For more information on the program, look at their website.

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