July 9, 2004
UW-River Falls Helps Youth Embrace College
By Molly Exner
UW-RF News Bureau
This June, almost 100 youth trying to better their odds at pursuing a college education had that chance through the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Explore Program. The precollege camp brought students grades 6-12 who are potentially first-generation college students to the University to experience dorm life, academic courses, recreation and social experiences.
Funded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Explore is an academic enrichment program intended to get young people excited about college. The program provides hands-on learning experiences from UW-RF instructors and student counselors and helps prepare students for ACT and SAT college entrance exams.
The Explore Program is directed by Terrence Galbreath, himself a role model who can attest to the value of the program from his own experience. "Most of these students are coming from backgrounds where their parents have never talked about college in the home," said Galbreath, a UW-RF alumnus. "They havenŐt been pushed in that direction from counselors or teachers either, so they just donŐt have the hope. We want to instill hope in them, plant the seed and tell them they can do it."
As a teenager, Galbreath was involved in a similar camp, the Upward Bound program at Texas A&M University. He said a director from that program inspired him to take responsibility and overcome the negativity in his life.
In order to achieve the same motivation for college that Galbreath received, the University tries hard to recruit motivated staff who are interested in working with youth and provide courses that meet their interests, says Galbreath. The camp is planned each year by reviewing surveys of past students, who offer ideas and perspectives on their needs and expectations.
"You want to stick with some of the old because, of course, some of the old stuff works; but then you always want to look for something new," said Galbreath. Galbreath said the top two things mentioned in past surveys were more free time and more outdoor activities. A popular game among students was called Winds of Change. In circle formation, students were asked to pay close attention to the people around them. They had to fill in the blanks that identify their peers to enhance name-building and observation skills. The students also enjoyed climbing-rope courses at the YMCA and outdoor events in nearby Prescott, Wis.
Each year, the courses offered depend on the staff and the interest level in the course. In addition, this year student counselors were given more freedom to plan activities for the Explore students. For example, counselors had one or two diversity-building activities planned and ready to carry out. Galbreath said having counselors who are college students helps the Explore participants connect better with their instructors.
Courses in math, science and creative writing were offered along with some repeat favorites. Bio-detectives is a popular class taught by biology Professor Katherine Miller, whoŐs been involved with the camp for several years. The course includes fingerprinting, investigating crime scenes, forensics and DNA sampling. World Dance is also a favorite course that gives the students an opportunity to immerse themselves in dance and music from a variety of cultures.
Nearly a third of all the Explore students return to the camps each year. Three Explore "graduates," who are seniors, have applied for admission at Xavier University, Columbia University and UCLA. Galbreath has their artwork hanging in his office.
"Ideally what we want is to get them in college someday," said Galbreath. "The secondary goal is to get the students to attend the UW-RF campus as college students. I donŐt try to push UW-RF on the students too hard, but I do put in a good word."
Prior to his first year as director, Galbreath spent two years as an Explore student counselor, and says he believes in UW-RF's message of higher education and the opportunities provided by the camps. He graduated from UW-RF in May 2003 with a major in broad field social studies and an emphasis in history and will attend graduate school at Bethel College in the fall.
Galbreath gives credit to the people in his life who pushed him and instilled hope in him. He says the transformation from when the students arrive on campus to when they leave is "a beautiful process." "Some students can go either way. They can choose college or block out the messages we're trying to send and go back to the negativity that might surround them in their environment. I feel like I have to do whatever I can to try and help people make it in life," said Galbreath.
Editor's Note: The following students participated in the Explore Program, listed by their state, hometown and name: Wisconsin Residents: Milwaukee: Alicia Anderson, Deondra Avery, Jesse Black, Pinkie Broadway, Christian Brown, Marquita Bryson, Nicole Bryson, Shelita Burton, Kapristia Greer, Lanisha Harris, Hydiza Hassan, Laisheri Kirkendoll, Ardrina Lee, Laverne Logan, McThune Marquita, Nakayla Miller, Octavia Paul, Donisha Ragsdale, Taneshia Ragsdale, Trevaughn Rayford, Jasmine Rush, Cornell Scales, Lamont Smith, Mario Stewart, Jasmine Triplett, Takita Williams Appleton: Sean Bass Wausau: Lelani Begaye, Willerree Begaye, Tong Lee, Vue Lor, Ashley Moua Mai Chue Yang, KaHoua Yang Hartford: Erin Bennett, Micheal Berg-Mojica, Miya Brunke, Alysia Nanez, Deneyse Concepcion, Samantha Fichtner, Jamil Ashley, Tiffanie Nanez, Natalie Ramirez, Adnan Rexha, Chelsey Wachtl, Marcello Wachtl, Stephanie Wachtl Hayward: Mary Jo Bialucha Prescott: MacKenzie Brunner, Micheal Pechacek Hudson: Crysta Cadalbert Rubicon: Matthew Cadena Ellsworth: Dean Chilson River Falls: Sara Estrada, Rebecca Lorenzen Racine: Andrea Gonzalez Kenosha: Makaya Gordon Albertville: Amandla Hunter Wisconsin Rapids: Bao Khang, Chu Yee Khang, Ci Khang, Ka Youa Khang, Kou Meng Khang, Lucy Khang, Pang Ploua Khang, Blia Thao, Chai Thao, Chee Neng Thao Beloit: Elizabeth Martinez Rodgriguez Ellsworth: James Murray Hudson: Villatania Nicholas, Rayalla Niraj, Kristen Tuchscherer Kenosha: Krystal Roberts, Sierra Sherrod, Tyler White, Troy Williams Weston: Angel Rose Wauwatosa: Justin Taylor Eau Claire: Mai Neng Vang, Touhoua Xiong Minnesota Residents: Eagan: Caroline Snowden Lakeland: Kathryn Hockin St. Paul: Daisy Giles Brooklyn Park: BreAndra Beamon, Jasmine Stephens
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