By Lauren Horn
Why is it important to go to college? How difficult is the first year? Do you have a curfew?
These were among the questions on the minds of 160 eighth-graders on a field trip to Northeastern University last Wednesday for Early College Awareness Day, a program organized by the Center for STEM Education. The middle-school students attend Orchard Gardens K-8 School and the Curley K-8 School, Northeastern’s partner schools through Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Step Up initiative.
More than 30 members of the Northeastern community volunteered for the event, which focused on preparing eighth-grade students for both high-school and college life.
Alfred Kryollos, a sophomore biochemistry and theater major, said he volunteered “because I wish as a kid I had someone closer to my age to explain how things really were and hear real life experiences and solutions. It’s much easier making a decision when you have someone who gets you.”
Northeastern students and faculty answered questions as part of panel discussions and led campus tours, which included a glimpse of an International Village dorm room. Marilyn Minus, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, gave a presentation on how she chose her major and picked a career path.
John Tobin, vice president for city and community affairs, Richard Harris, assistant dean and director of multicultural engineering programs in the College of Engineering, and Christos Zahopoulos and Claire Duggan, of the Center for STEM Education, also addressed the students.
At the end of the day, Sport in Society, a Northeastern research center, set up sports and games for the teens to play in the Cabot Physical Education Center.
Emily Nolan, a sophomore psychology major who is currently on co-op with Sport in Society, emphasized a main theme of the day: using high school to try new activities and classes. “I recommend you challenge yourself in high-school classes, because even if you’re not sure you can do it, it will lead to big bonus points when you apply for college,” she told the students. “Also, try different things and you’ll figure out what you like. I took sign language and education classes before I discovered that I really liked psychology.”
Jonathan Lopez, an eighth-grade student at the Curley K-8, said the best part of the day was meeting all of the people who work and go to school at Northeastern. “They told me to try your best in school and go to college, and don’t worry about the money as much because there is help for that,” he said.
“I was not thinking about going to college, but now I am,” he added. “I like that you can take any classes you want, you get a lot more freedom than middle school.”