About 1,100 fifth graders from Skagit and Whatcom counties will be visiting Western Washington University on Tuesday, Oct. 15, to see firsthand what a university campus is like. The tour kicks off the 11th year of Compass 2 Campus, a proactive effort that sends trained WWU student mentors into schools in order to get more kids to see themselves as capable, lifelong learners.
The annual tour of campus is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between the fifth graders and WWU mentors. As the fifth graders progress through middle and high school, Western Compass 2 Campus (C2C) mentors continue to serve these students to offer encouragement and support to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.
“Many of our C2C fifth graders do not know a single person who has attended the university. Tour day allows them to see themselves as a college student in the future. Exploring campus with college mentors helps them understand how university life is more than just classes – it is about possible futures. Students will ask our college mentors about HOW they can attend college or what living on campus is like, questions that they would never ask an adult. Our mentors help them see how education can help them achieve their goals and that there are many people on Western’s campus who will support them to pursue their dreams,” said Maria Timmons Flores, interim director of the C2C program.
Mentors spend at least four hours a week in schools, engaged where teachers and administrators feel they’re needed most; some help with after-school activities while others lead small group projects or provide one-on-one academic support to students in need.
Working with elementary through high school teachers, the WWU students learn about the students’ aspirations and talk to them about how going to college can help them reach those dreams.
A number of WWU student mentors are providing mentoring in schools they attended when younger, giving back to the schools that helped them in their educational journey.
While many mentoring programs focus their efforts on students who have already shown academic promise or interest, Compass 2 Campus works primarily with students who face many barriers to educational opportunity. For these students, having mentors who grew up in their communities provides an inspiration and sense of possibility. All C2C mentors work with students with an assets orientation, helping them recognize the strengths they possess and how their language and culture are assets in achieving their dreams.
The program, launched in 2009 at Western, includes 13 area elementary schools and 10 middle schools and nine high schools as well as partners from four community and technical colleges. (Participating schools are listed at the end of this release). Funding for the program primarily is from grants and private sources.
The Washington State Legislature established legislative support for the program in 2009 with the passage of HB 1986 with the goal of increasing the number of low-income students, diverse and first-generation college students in higher education.
C2C has won several prominent awards. Previous C2C Executive Director and Founder Cyndie Shepard was nationally recognized with a Daily Point of Light Award, which honors individuals and groups creating meaningful change in communities across America. The award was founded by former President George H. W. Bush during his presidency to engage individuals, families, businesses and groups to solve community problems through voluntary service.
Several scholarships– including from Cyndie Shepard and her husband Bruce Shepard, former Western president – have been established to support public school students mentored in the program who go on to attend Western.
For more information, please visit the Compass 2 Campus Web site.
Compass 2 Campus is a partnership among Western and four community and technical colleges:
- Whatcom Community College
- Bellingham Technical College
- Northwest Indian College
- Skagit Valley College
The elementary, middle and high schools participating in the program are:
- Alderwood Elementary, Shuksan Middle and Squalicum High in Bellingham
- Blaine Elementary, Blaine Middle and Blaine High
- Eagleridge Elementary, Vista Middle and Ferndale High in Ferndale
- Fisher Elementary, Lynden Middle and Lynden High in Lynden
- Harmony Elementary and Mount Baker Junior High in Mount Baker
- Irene Reither Elementary, Meridian Middle and Meridian High in Meridian
- Everson, Nooksack and Sumas Elementary Schools, Nooksack Valley Middle and Nooksack Valley High in the Nooksack School District
- Lummi Nation School
- Mary Purcell Elementary, Cascade Middle and Sedro-Woolley High in Sedro-Woolley
- Centennial Elementary, La Venture Middle and Mount Vernon High in Mount Vernon
- Lucille Umbarger and Burlington-Edison High in Burlington