McDaniel gives kids a glimpse at college life

Tour urges pupils to see educational possibilities

November 06, 2005|By GINA DAVIS | GINA DAVIS,SUN REPORTER

The group of young prospects were treated to the typical tour of McDaniel College's amenities: a glimpse of a few classrooms, the dorms and, of course, the dining hall.

Less typical were the prospects themselves - the youngest of whom was 5-year-old John-John Fields.

Fields joined about two dozen elementary and middle school pupils from the Westminster Boys and Girls Club who visited the "campus on the hill," which many of them said they could see from their neighboring backyards along the school's borders on Pennsylvania Avenue and Union Street.

"I'd like to go to school here because it's near my house," said Destanie Smith, 10, a fifth-grader at William Winchester Elementary in Westminster.

The tour last week was intended to encourage the children - many of whom come from homes where no immediate family members have attended college - to start thinking about their educational futures, the tour organizers said.

"We wanted to give them the exposure," said Phyllis Hammonds, director of the Westminster Boys and Girls Club. "Seeing it all may help spark their interest."

She coordinated the visit with the college's faculty, including Henry B. Reiff, associate dean of academic affairs.

"Many, if not most, of these kids would not think McDaniel is in their future," Reiff said. "Most would not think college at all is in their future."

He said one of the goals of the campus visit was to dispel the assumption that McDaniel - where tuition this year is more than $26,000 - is out of their range.

With the help of financial aid and good grades, he said, a college education for any of these children should be something they can envision as a reality.

"We want to get them excited about thinking about college," he said. "The younger, the better."

Along the tour, the children learned that the school's president, Joan Develin Coley, is a woman as they peeked into her office.

"She's like the principal of a school," Reiff said.

As the group made its way along the brick-paved paths winding through the campus, Reiff peppered them with details such as the school's founding in 1867 as Western Maryland College; that he was married in Little Baker Chapel; and that the house where each of the school's eight presidents has lived on campus was built in the 1880s.

Stopping at Whiteford Hall, a dormitory for women, the pupils were invited into Rebecca Snider and Alison Wyper's room. The group of wide-eyed children soaked it all up, noticing everything from the lava lamp and fish tanks to the microwave oven and refrigerator.

While they took note of all the goodies, Reiff took care to point out some of the responsibilities that come with living away from home.

"When you go to college, guess who washes your clothes?" he asked. "You do."

For some of the older pupils, who had been whisked away by some college freshmen for a separate but similar tour, the visit sparked thoughts of independence.

"It seems like you have more freedom, but not too much freedom," said Amanda Pope, 13, an eighth-grader at West Middle in Westminster. "Your parents aren't around."

Hammonds said the tour matched her organization's goal to allow the children to experience life beyond their neighborhood.

"The sooner we can get these children in the mindset of bettering themselves educationally and professionally, the better," Hammonds said. "We want them to see that these opportunities can be their opportunities, too."

Several of the pupils said the campus visit had piqued their interest in college - maybe even McDaniel.

"I can't wait to go to college here," Anthony Torres, 7, a second-grader at William Winchester, said as he munched on a cheeseburger, pizza and Jell-O in the dining hall.

He and his brother, Daniel Smith, 9, a fourth-grader at the same school, agreed that one of the highlights of the tour was seeing the inside of Little Baker Chapel. They were impressed with the sanctuary's colorful stained-glass windows.

Thinking even further ahead, Daniel added:

"I might get married here."

gina.davis@baltsun.com

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