Everett students get a taste of campus life

SEATTLE — Evergreen Middle School students perused antique books shelved under cathedral-sized stained glass windows in the historic Suzzallo Library.

They gazed out at Lake Washington from McMahon Hall dormitory and stepped into a lecture hall big enough to fit several of their classrooms inside.

They were impressed, but judging from the oohhs and ahhs, the biggest draw Evergreen students found at the University of Washington was the food court, with a Subway sandwich shop, a pizza bar, and Mexican and Asian kiosks.

“It smells so good,” said Sergio Berrera, 14, walking by plates of sandwiches and stir-fry chicken.

His mouth dropped when he spotted a case of chocolate eclairs, cookies and cheese-covered bagels. “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

Like most of Evergreen’s 347 eighth graders, it was Sergio’s first trip to a college campus.

Even before last week’s field trip, Sergio knew he wanted to go to college, but being at the university helped him visualize his dream and realize he needs to start working — now — to make it happen.

Classmate Andre Oliver was wowed by the grandeur of the campus and said he’ll take school more seriously now.

“I know it’s more hard, so I’ll have to try harder,” he said, sitting in a UW cafeteria. “I didn’t even know you have to study five times a day!”

Watching students read silently in the library and hang out beside historic brick classrooms, Andre realized how much he wants to go to college.

“I like the library,” he said. “It’s big and it looks like Hogwarts, but I don’t know about the quiet part. I can’t be real quiet.”

Evergreen teachers Debra McCollum and Lois Craig arranged the trip and secured a grant from the Everett Public Schools Foundation to help pay for it because they wanted their students to experience college life. Every eighth-grader in the Everett school visited the UW and either the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center in south Everett or Everett Community College last Tuesday.

“All the time we tell them to do their homework and study,” McCollum said, preparing to lead students on a tour of the university. “We want to show them that this is what the payoff is. You come here to go to college and get a good job.”

The students are scheduled to meet with their counselors soon to start planning their path through high school. The school tours were supposed to help them figure out where they’d like to be in five years and what they need to do to get there.

Standing in a brick entryway outside a lecture, McCollum gathered a few dozen students around her.

“This is what college is all about,” she said. “You’ll see lots of people studying. You have to keep your grades up or they’ll kick you out.”

Minutes later, they filed into an empty lecture hall and gazed in awe at hundreds of seats.

During a visit to a dorm, they learned about cleaning their rooms and sharing small spaces. They saw sculptures on the lawn and watched students studying in a dimly lit campus coffee house. They learned that students pay big bucks to go to class.

Eighth-grader Jessmyn Mullens said she’s promised her mom she’ll go to college, but until Tuesday, she’d never set foot on one. “I’m kind of excited for college now,” the aspiring photographer said, walking by academic offices. “You can learn a lot more.”

Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292, kmanry@heraldnet.com.

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