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20 March 2013

High school partnership opens doors

Going to college is something most students take for granted, but for many people, college is an unattainable dream.

The University of Miami Office of Civic and Community Engagement is bridging the gap between traditionally underserved high school students and UM students to promote a college-going atmosphere.

“All the students who have participated have all seen a tremendous impact on their lives,” said Robin Bachin, assistant provost for civic and community engagement. “It’s a significant experience for them to the point of completely changing their plans for graduate school, or their career after seeing the tremendous benefit their enthusiasm can bring to our community.”

The Southridge High School Partnership brings together high school students, teachers and UM undergraduates to provide innovative lectures and enhance the public school curriculum.

The program is finishing its second year and is looking forward to expanding its reach next semester.

The program currently accepts history or English majors who will be paired with a teacher at Southridge High School.

The student will assist in promoting a college-going culture by translating what they are learning in their classes to practical classroom learning for high school students.

Because it has been a success for all the key stake holders, the program will be expanding next semester to Booker T. Washington High School and will include STEM subjects, Bachin said.

English and history are a semester long commitment and worth three credits.

The STEM program will be a one-year commitment and will be worth six credits.

As part of the program, students will present three guest lectures, coordinate with the teacher to enhance three lessons plans, meet with the teacher five times to discuss the curriculum and mentor the students during class.

“For UM students, this is eye-opening,” Bachin said. “It forces them to know and understand what they are studying in order to make it compelling for high school students.”

So far, the program has focused on English and history because literacy and writing skills are essential to the college admissions and handling the workload.

Senior Shane Owens is working at Southridge with sophomore English honors students and is studying Edgar Allen Poe with them.

“I think that the humanities and the social sciences are less about translating data or knowledge, but about teaching a way of reading, writing and thinking,” Owens said. “In subjects like English and history, there’s not the issue of a knowledge gap, it’s an experience gap. The interactive nature of learning these subjects means you can take a college student like me with a group of high school students, and we can have a mutual learning process.”

Bachin hopes UM students will get involved with the program and realize the rewards of investing their time.

“I hope they understand they bring tremendous value to our community at large and their intellectual mindset and passion for learning is not just for personal gain, but can be translated to classrooms as well to serve some larger civic purpose,” she said.