Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: October 19, 2009 10:07:00 AM PDT
Compass 2 Campus Brings Hundreds of 5th Graders to WWU Campus Oct. 27
Mentoring Program Aims to Empower Kids to See College as a Viable Option

Contact: Paul Cocke, director, WWU University Communications, (360) 650-3350

BELLINGHAM – Hundreds of Western Washington University students have become mentors to fifth-graders this fall in a proactive effort to get more kids to see themselves as college-bound. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, those fifth graders from Skagit and Whatcom counties will be visiting Western’s campus to see firsthand what a university campus is like.

Modeled after a successful program in Wisconsin, Compass 2 Campus aims to get more kids thinking early about college with the help of mentors and role models to show them the importance of higher education.

“Research tells us mentorship is the key,” said Cyndie Shepard, volunteer director of the program. “Kids who are mentored or who have a significant adult in their lives have a better chance of success.”

On Oct. 27, the fifth graders will go on tours of Western’s campus personalized to the youngsters’ interests. They will get to see the inside of real college classrooms and laboratories to glimpse what’s in store for kids who are motivated to do well in school.

The program, launched with the help of a work study grant from the Higher Education Coordinating Board, includes 10 area elementary schools as well as four community and technical colleges. (Participating schools are listed at the end of this release). Funding for the program primarily is from private sources.

The Washington State Legislature established the program last spring in hopes of increasing the number of low-income students, students of color and first-generation college students in higher education.

About 430 WWU students have volunteered to be among the first class of mentors to work with as many as 800 fifth-graders this fall in the Whatcom and Skagit elementary schools. The program will grow each year, eventually covering fifth through 12th grades in selected schools.

Working with elementary school teachers, the WWU students learn about the kids’ aspirations and talk to them about how going to college can help them reach those dreams.

Shepard co-founded a program similar to Compass 2 Campus several years ago at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where her husband, WWU President Bruce Shepard, was chancellor.

The Wisconsin program, which will graduate its first kids from high school this year, has shown improved grades and attendance among the youngsters who participated, Cyndie Shepard said. It’s set to start soon at a second university, UW Eau Claire.

“We found the more structured we became, the more purposeful we became, the better our results were looking,” she said. “We have a formula that works very, very well.”

While many mentoring programs focus their efforts on youngsters who have already shown academic promise or interest, Compass 2 Campus aims to reach all youngsters – even those who haven’t shown much potential at all.

“I think we miss a lot of very bright children by just assuming that they’ll never make it because they don’t do well in school,” Cyndie Shepard said. “We typically let those kids go. We’re saying ‘We’re not letting you go.’”

In middle and high schools, WWU students will assist students with academic skills and serve as role models and mentors to youngsters and teens building their futures.        

The WWU mentors are receiving training through a three-credit class available to all majors. About half of the 430 students enrolled are from Western’s Woodring College of Education, or hope to be. The rest are from programs throughout campus.

Education students are usually tied down by their junior and senior years by other commitments that have them in classrooms, said Stephanie Salzman, dean of Woodring College of Education. So drawing WWU students from all disciplines is critical.

“It’s an opportunity to involve Western students who haven’t been involved before,” Salzman said. “This enhances the community outreach culture of this campus and the service orientation of our students.”

For more information, please visit the Compass 2 Campus Web site.

Compass 2 Campus is a partnership among Western and four community and technical colleges:

So far, the elementary schools participating in the program are:




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