Photos: Compass 2 Campus tour day

Western Today staff
  • Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU
    Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU
  • Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU
    Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU
  • Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU
    Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU
  • Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU
    Photo by Rhys Logan / WWU

About 875 fifth graders from Skagit and Whatcom counties visited Western Washington University on Tuesday, Oct. 21, to see firsthand what a university campus is like. The tour kicked off the sixth 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.

“Mentorship is the key. Kids who are mentored or who have a significant adult in their lives have a better chance of success. We’re reaching out to kids who may not think about graduating from high school and going on to college, encouraging them to have that vision.” said Cyndie Shepard, director of Compass 2 Campus, in a press release before the event.

WWU, while mentoring in local school districts, has also begun its mission to transport the program to other colleges and universities in our state.  This fall, Central Washington University opened Compass 2 Campus, encouraging their local youth to consider college in their futures, as well.  CWU partnered with Western last fall to adopt the program and is holding their first tour day scheduled for Oct. 28. The Western C2C team will travel to Ellensburg, Wash., to support their first effort on that day.

To date, the innovative mentoring program has now served thousands of students from the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and now 10th grades in schools in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Over the past five years, Western student mentors have provided nearly 123,000 hours of mentoring service to those students.

On Oct. 21, the fifth-graders were involved in one of 100 different tours of Western’s campus personalized to the youngsters’ interests. They got to see the inside of real college classrooms and laboratories to glimpse what’s in store for those who are motivated to do well in school. Professors with specialties ranging from music to marine biology opened their doors to these students. 

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 mentors continue to serve these students to offer encouragement and support to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.

More than 385 WWU students are now enrolled in the three-credit class required to become Compass 2 Campus mentors. Some students have taken the continuing classes and are working on advanced projects in the schools in which they mentor students. Additional students who have already taken the class are continuing to mentor as volunteers. 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 help to struggling students.

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. 

While many mentoring programs focus their efforts on youngsters who have already shown academic promise or interest, Compass 2 Campus aims to reach all youngsters – even those who may not show interest in school.

“I think we miss a lot of very bright children by just assuming that they’ll never make it because they don’t do well in school,” Cyndie Shepard said. “We typically let those kids go. We’re saying ‘We’re not letting you go.’”

District superintendents selected the schools they felt would most benefit from the program, Shepard said.

The program, launched in 2009 at Western, includes 13  area elementary schools and ten  middle schools and eight  high schools as well as partners from four community and technical colleges and Communities in Schools. (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 hopes of increasing the number of low-income students, diverse and first-generation college students in higher education.

C2C has won several prominent awards. C2C Director 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.

The predecessor to Compass 2 Campus, Phuture Phoenix, is now in three universities in Wisconsin after starting at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Shepard co-founded the Phuture Phoenix program several years ago at UW-Green Bay, where her husband, WWU President Bruce Shepard, was chancellor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 10:05am