College Days for Kids will welcome 671 sixth graders from schools across Wisconsin to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus on April 4, 11, and 25.
This event is unique to UWSP and offers each student three classes per day.
The reason that sixth graders are chosen is so they can start thinking about attaining a higher education at an earlier time in their academic lives.
Naomi Peuse coordinator for the Network for Gifted Education at UWSP said the event is not a recruiting tool, but simply a learning opportunity.
“We’re not asking them to become Pointers. We’re asking them to think about higher education. I really think that teachers, parents and students will be excited,” Peuse said.
These students are able to choose the classes they attend, but their choices are ultimately a reflection of course schedule availability. Some courses interfere with others, so participants are asked to select alternative class choices when applying for the event.
College Days for Kids began in 1985 and for several years it lasted two weeks. However, some schools found it difficult to generate and maintain funds to support their attendees. As the program developed, it was cut back to three days to improve cost-effectiveness and increase participation from schools in Wisconsin.
The application process is different for each school involved. Typically, schools seek students who are at a high academic level.
Peuse said that some schools choose from gifted programs, whereas others will have students submit applications. Both public and private schools are welcomed to the event.
“I don’t have a great way to reach out to homeschoolers, but I would welcome them to attend,” Peuse said.
Peuse was excited to talk about the courses offered to these young students.
“Our courses are designed mostly by instructors on campus. They’re meant to broaden interests,” Peuse said.
Peuse values how this program acts as a community service and an outreach tool for higher education.
Students at UWSP can volunteer as escorts to classes on these days. Volunteers will assist instructors, lead students to classes, and go to lunch with them at Upper Debot.
Ryan Petro, a sophomore and international business major, values his own involvement as a reflection of the excitement he feels for UWSP.
“I volunteer at College Days for Kids because I enjoy teaching others about all the great things we have at Stevens Point,” Petro said.
Brian Martinson, a junior and pre-occupational therapy major in the health sciences field, feels similarly about his own involvement.
“I am volunteering for a great opportunity to lead and instruct new and future upper education students,” Martinson said.
Peuse said the experience at Upper Debot is fun for students because they might be used to one-line lunchrooms at their own schools, while Upper Debot has many options. She said students tend to express this in their feedback surveys. Though she said it is a valuable experience, her ultimate goal is with academia.
Peuse noted that students in the past had a tendency to sign up for only athletics as their three class choices, but this has changed within recent years of the program. With limited athletics and a less specific curriculum, there is room for courses in foreign languages and social issues.
Closing in on the program’s 30th anniversary, Peuse said there is still a lot to look forward to with College Days for Kids as it expands into a new medium for modern education.