Close to 900 fifth-graders from Skagit and Whatcom counties are visiting Western Washington University today, Oct. 26, to see firsthand what a university campus is like.
The tour kicks off the second 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 future college students.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen spoke at the day’s opening ceremonies. Also expected to attend are State Sen. Rosemary McAulliffe, state representatives Bob Hasegawa, Kelli Linville and Jeff Morris, Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen and Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike.
Modeled after a successful program in Wisconsin, Compass 2 Campus aims to get more kids thinking early about college with the help of mentors and role models to show them the importance of higher education. The tour is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between the youngsters and WWU mentors. The students who toured the WWU campus last year as fifth-graders now work with Western student mentors in their sixth-grade classrooms. And they will continue to see WWU students as Compass 2 Campus grows each year, eventually serving thousands of students in the fifth- through 12th grades.
“The campus has really put its arms around this and said, ‘Yes, we’re doing it,’” said Cyndie Shepard, director of the program. More faculty and staff have opened their doors to the student visitors this year, providing twice as many opportunities for the fifth-graders to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in college. “They’ve been creative in opening up their minds to what would interest a fifth-grader and get them interested in coming to college.”