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Compass 2 Campus hosts virtual college week for local fifth graders

Western invited fifth graders from Whatcom and Skagit County school districts to participate in a virtual college week event

A student sits in front of Miller Hall, 2020. Miller Hall is where the Compass to Campus classes take place.
A student sits in front of Miller Hall, 2020. Miller Hall is where the Compass to Campus classes take place. // Photo by Nick Sadigh.

By Adriannah Roman

With the transition to online learning, Western Washington University’s Compass 2 Campus program hosted a virtual college week fair from January 25-29, welcoming fifth graders from Whatcom and Skagit counties to participate in the event. 

Juliet Evans, Western’s Compass 2 Campus program manager, said the program started 11 years ago. She said her favorite part about the program is the built-in mentorship that works on many different levels. 

Evans said college week is one very visible portion of the program for on-campus staff. In general, the program runs all year. Western students take the class Compass 2 Campus, which is a service-learning course on the school district campuses in which they mentor students from fifth to 12th grade, Evans said. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Compass 2 Campus is participating in both online mentoring and email pen pals, Evans said. With online learning still intact, the Compass 2 Campus program could not have its annual fall event, where fifth graders are invited to campus and get to know their mentors, Evans said. However, Evans said the program still wanted to initiate an event for fifth graders even if it isn’t quite the same.

“After researching everything from attention spans of fifth graders to what Western faculty and staff can provide right now along with working with student staff, we were able to develop the idea of college week,” Evans said. 

Evans said the event was a way for fifth graders to choose what subjects they were interested in and inform the students about what college life is like. The event also allowed the students to virtually tour the campus and write questions or concerns at the bottom of the page. 

Compass 2 Campus is a program that invites Western students to mentor students. The program helps fifth graders through 12th grade better understand college life and how to pursue a college education in the future. 

“We have 33 partnered schools in Whatcom and Skagit counties,” Evans said. “Because of the online learning environment, we’ve been letting schools decide what’s available for them.”

“We work with all Title 1 schools,” Evans said. “Typically, those students have more barriers to graduation, coming to college and structure barriers along with any other things that play into it.”

“One of the best experiences you can have during college is getting a chance to work within the community that you’re in and to adapt some hands-on experience,” Evans said. “I believe these types of classes are the most beneficial for students.”

Savannah Kaczorowski, a third-year student majoring in biology, gives insights into what it was like to be part of the program as a mentor during her first year at college. 

“I was able to form long-lasting relationships with the children and made them excited to consider attending a university in the future,” Kaczorowski said. “Western students who want to major in education can get great experience working with kids and help encourage them to pursue college as a possible future path.” 

Rachele Sharpe, deputy executive director of College and Career Compass Washington, also agrees that Compass 2 Campus is beneficial to mentors and fifth graders as it creates a leaning bond between the two.  

“Helping young people visualize themselves on campus, and not to just talk about it but to experience it physically,” Sharpe said. “It’s motivating and inspiring to those students.”

Sharpe said the earlier you can talk to someone into dreaming about their future, the more likely they will take more rigorous coursework and shut off pathways of  self-doubt or assumptions about what they can or cannot do.

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