Not too many 15-year-olds can say they’ve attended classes at Fordham University. But Shawntel Jones, a sophomore from the Pablo Neruda Academy in the Bronx, did just that as part of the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ College Shadow Program – a weeklong event in which the youngsters teamed up with Fordham undergraduates as a way to gain insight into the college experience.
Jones said the classes on “Effective Speaking” and “Affirmative Action and the American Dream” she attended during the week of Nov. 5 with her mentor, Fordham College at Rose Hill senior Jasmine Velazquez, 21, were anything but boring.
“The [professors]actually get to know their students,” said Jones, who plans to attend college to become an engineer. “I enjoyed the back and forth between student and teacher. It was great.”
Jones was one of 24 students from the Bronx high school to shadow a Fordham student as part of the program, which the Office of Multicultural Affairs initiated in 2006. From Nov. 5 through Nov. 9, Pablo Neruda students followed a Fordham mentor to classes, club meetings and social events.
“The purpose of the program is for them to learn about all the aspects of college life,” said Nina Nicole Longino, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “We created this program as a way to reach out to the young people from the Bronx and show them that it is possible for them to attend college.”
In addition to spending time with their mentor, the high school students attended a luncheon and dinner in which they met other Fordham students from diverse backgrounds.
At the Nov. 7 luncheon, which took place at the McGinley Center on the Rose Hill campus, various Fordham undergraduates and University staff advised the teenagers to take advantage of the program by learning about college life at Fordham.
“Meet new people; do new things, go for the goal,” said Karen Brifu, a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior majoring in mathematics and economics.
“It is possible to do the impossible,” said Devin Gladden, a Fordham College at Rose Hill junior who said he grew up in a rough area of Detroit but was able to earn academic success and get to Fordham. “You can be an agent of change.”
Fordham College at Rose Hill senior Michael Partis, 21, president of Asili, the Rose Hill Black Student Union, told the students that “college is a challenge,” but one they can overcome.
“I would expect that your high school is made up of mostly people of color, as are your communities,” Partis said. “Most colleges are not like that. You have to get out there and meet different people and have different experiences to create yourself. You make who you are.”
Jasmine Velazquez, the mentor who showed Pablo Neruda sophomore Shawntel Jones the ropes around the Rose Hill campus, told the high school students to share what they learned in their time at Fordham with their peers.
“Take this [experience]back to the block,” Velazquez said. “It would be an injustice if you keep it to yourself.”