Nine Latino high school students explored the in and outs of college last week through conversations with Penn State Abington's chancellor, chief academic officer, faculty, and staff.
Co-sponsored by two regional nonprofits, Youth Shadowing Day focused on the impact of choosing a college, a major, and a career that’s the right fit. Faculty and staff hammered home the importance of thoughtful decision-making with their own stories — including one’s journey through six majors before finding his calling.
Chancellor Damian J. Fernandez challenged the teens, who hail from Thomas Edison and Kensington Creative & Performing Arts high schools in Philadelphia, to commit to higher education.
“Education offers opportunities to explore who you are, develop your talents, and contribute to society,” he said. “At Abington, this community is devoted entirely to student success.”
“We actively work on being inclusive and are very conscious of bringing people together in ways that many places and people shy away from.”
-- Andrew August, interim associate dean for Academic Affairs
Andrew August, interim associate dean for Academic Affairs, explained the college's welcoming atmosphere evolves through mindful and ongoing practice.
“We actively work on being inclusive and and are very conscious of bringing people together in ways that many places and people shy away from,” he said.
He encouraged the teens, who are enrolled in a summer program through Congreso de Latinos Unido, to chase opportunities for hands-on research and other ways to work with faculty.
Jacob Benfield, the man who worked through six majors before finding the right fit, pointed out the the broader impact of education. The assistant psychology professor introduced them to the Abington College Center for Education and Social Sciences (ACCESS), which serves as a mechanism for students and faculty to apply their skills in local communities.
“You want to be a marketer? Help market something in your community like your local church or another organization," he said. "Care about the community you live in.”
Admissions staffer Ernest Ntiamoah, of the class of 2013, wrapped up the day by walking the students through the application process and then leading a tour of the campus.
Rita Mejias, lecturer in Spanish and English ESL at Abington, organized the the campus program. Congreso de Latinos Unido and the Professional Mentoring Network (PMN) of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored Youth Shadowing Day.
“This youth shadowing day was unique as we had students learn from Penn State Abington executives while also understanding how a university operates and obtain information about admissions,” Rebeca Cruz-Esteves from the Hispanic chamber. “The PMN and Congreso partner on shadowing days to change the lives of Hispanic youth, promote higher education, and professional careers.”