Author: Daniel Arkin
Occidental hosted 44 fourth graders from Milagro Charter School, an elementary school in Lincoln Heights, last Wednesday for an annual program called Day at College. The program, sponsored by the Center for Community Based Learning (CCBL), included a campus tour, informal encounters with faculty and a series of mock classes taught by current students.
According to Celestina Castillo, assistant director of the CCBL, the central mission of the Day of College program is to offer local elementary school students a glimpse of the undergraduate experience that might stimulate enthusiasm for higher education.
Daniel Badal (senior), Wynette Whitegoat (junior) and Samantha Sencer-Mura (senior), made up the core team that worked with the CCBL to coordinate the event. Badal stressed that the program provides an opportunity for Occidental students to forge bonds with the community.
“The [elementary school students] feel as though they are a part of a reciprocal connection greater than what we as Occidental students can provide if we only visit their communities,” Badal said.
This year’s program began at 9:30 a.m. with a campus tour, which Castillo says was structured like a scavenger hunt.
“The tour was the best part of the program because [the students] had a chance to ask us questions and express their personal interests. I definitely forgot how fun it was to be a kid,” Whitegoat said.
Ashley Powell (senior), who led one of the tour groups, was struck by the students’ enthusiasm and excitement.
“[The students] told me they liked the library and seeing the chickens in the F.E.A.S.T. garden the most,” Powell said.
After the tour, Milagro students had the opportunity to participate in up to two mock classes on subjects like community organizing, global travel, golf and math. The mock classes were held in rooms in Weingart, Fowler and Johnson.
As with last year’s program, in which Badal taught a class on Michael Jackson’s dance moves, most of the mock classes were conducted in a light-hearted manner that encouraged fun and creativity over formal instruction.
The Day at College evolved from a 2003 program launched by Critical Theory and Social Justice professor Elizabeth Chin.
“This program started, I think, around 2003 when I was collaborating with the NYPD and City Attorney’s office on a program called Project G*O*L*D that we implemented at Garvanza Elementary school. The day at college part is something that has continued on, with adjustments and contributions from the CCBL office and its staff,” Chin said.
The CCBL plans to continue the program next year.
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