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Students visit Harlem to inspire

According to the College for Every Student program, 34 percent of middle class students will graduate from college, along with only 3 percent of low income high school students in the United States.From the rural towns of Vermont, to the urban inner cities of New York, the Castleton Student Government Association and Community Service Club have teamed together in an effort to reach out and help the future of students by inspiring them to pursue college.

A group of nine members borded a train from Castleton to New York City last Wednesday, where some students were able to experience city life and a subway for the first time.

“It was definitely a culture shock,” said Stephanie Terry the trip organizer and member of the Community Club. “One of the best things I’ve gotten to experience.”

The group first attended a CFES conference on the 32nd floor of Baclay’s Capital building in Time Square. Here, they were able to showcase their nationally-recognized mentoring program with other colleges from around New England.

Following the conference the group traveled to Wadleigh Secondary school in Harlem. Once there, they could share with students their knowledge and information about college that they otherwise may not be given the opportunity to hear.

Before meeting with students the group arrived on the campus of Wadleigh where they faced an environment unlike Castleton.

“There was a fence surrounding the school with what looked like barbed wire around the top,” said Justin Garritt, president of the SGA. “You met a security guard as soon as you walked in.”

The group also had to show their id’s and sign-in before they were granted access to the classrooms. Once passed through security they met with a few classes of 11th grade students who listened to a panel discussion on many facets of college and each of the member’s personal experiences.

“Wadleigh students listened intently and had great questions for our students,” said Jan Rousse an advisor for the two groups. “It was wonderful to see and hear our students tell their stories … share their experiences … their journey to college … with the message that as long as you have a goal and work hard, college is for everyone.”

Each Waldleigh student was given a Castleton packet including an application to help walk them through the applying process and answer any questions they may have about college or being a college student.

“The goal was to show them that no matter what their background or financial situation, college is always an option as long as they are willing to work hard and put in the effort,” said Garritt.

The group also planned to meet with kindergarten, fourth- and fifth-grade students at PS197 in Harlem, but due to heavy amounts of snow the event was cancelled. Instead all nine members wrote a personalized note to send to the classrooms describing what they would have talked about and apologizing for the cancelation.

With funding provided by the SGA, VSAC and fund-raising, the same group also held a career day for area high school students on Feb. 23. Students from all over Vermont including Proctor, Mill River, Castleton, Fair Haven, Benson and Orwell participated, totaling almost 250 seventh grade students.

The career day was also a part of the CFES program. There were 20 students and faculty members who volunteered their time from break, to train and work with students in hopes of having a positive and direct impact on their futures by installing the belief in students that college is possible for anyone.