On Thursday, March 14, APU held the second annual 8th Grade Majors Fair at the North Recreational Center of Memorial Park to encourage eighth grade students to set their minds on college early by exploring different majors.
APU’s Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research, or CASLR, collaborated with Citrus College and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) to highlight each school’s unique programs and majors.
In 2010, 67.6 percent of Azusa’s population was Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, an August 2012 Pew Research Center study shows that only 16.5 percent of enrolled college students are Hispanic.
Despite this being a record high, 16.5 percent is not very significant, especially with bachelor’s degrees becoming the new high school diploma. Nearly 60 percent of jobs in the U.S. require a degree in higher education, according to a 2010 report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
APU students involved with the Multi-Ethnic Leaders Scholars and Azusa Scholars volunteered at the fair, pointing eighth graders in the right direction and staffing event tables. APU ROTC students and football players pitched in as well, inviting eighth graders to do pushups while wearing a heavy backpack and talking to them about what it is like to be a student athlete.
Executive Director of CASLR Judy Hutchinson said the opportunity to have these three colleges at the event encouraging these kids is special and should not be taken for granted.
“The collaboration of Citrus College, Cal Poly and APU is really quite unique because colleges compete with each other and do their own thing, but they don’t tend to do [many things] together,” Hutchinson said. “I think the fact that these eighth graders can see that all three of the schools that are within their region care about them enough to do an event together, support them and get them excited about college.”
Approximately 750 middle schooler from all three Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) middle schools attended the event. Last year, only Center Middle School students attended.
The idea of hosting a majors fair was born out of APU’s CHAMP program. CHAMP, which stands for “College Headed and Mighty Proud,” is a semester-long program hosted by APU and AUSD that works with around 700 students from six local schools to get their minds focused on college. Hutchinson said the career fair is a way of expanding CHAMP’s goals.
“The assistant superintendent Alexis Ruiz told us, ‘With CHAMP, you give [the kids] the car to go to college, but can you put some wheels in the car? Can you put some gas in the car?’ We try to hit them at eighth grade so that they start thinking about their studies and thinking about their future in more practical terms than a career fair would be,” Hutchinson said.
Encouraging children to keep their mindset on college can be life-changing for them.
“It’s critical for the children in the Azusa Unified School District. A very small percentage of them have parents who have gone to college at all, so college is not a part of their hope, it’s not a part of their vision, it’s not a part of what they even think that they could be,” Hutchinson said. “Having college students and some professors interacting with them and trying to sell them on their major…for these 8th graders to see college kids that they revere anyway are the ones who are convincing them, saying, ‘You can do this,’ this is very exciting.”
Sophomore social work major Katie Russo thinks that stepping out and getting involved in the community is important and necessary, even though not all APU students may be eager to do so.
“There’s just so many kids in the community that look up to us, that know our name, but never really meet us or see our faces,” Russo said. “I think just getting out there, interacting with them, letting them see what we are really like and encouraging them to go to college are all really important.”
The teachers of these eighth graders helped lead the students around the fair. John Rico, an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and English/language arts teacher at Foothill Middle School, encourages his students to shoot high and to keep the curiosity for learning that they displayed at the event.
“I always tell my students they have to do what they have to do now to get to do what they want to do later; that’s my little mantra,” Rico said. “Also, [I] just constantly encourage them to continue moving forward.”