Thirty Des Moines area high school students attended this year’s first Bulldog for a Day program. The program, which was planned last year, is designed to give low income students an opportunity to experience what life at Drake, and more importantly college, is like. Each honorary Bulldog was paired with a current Drake student who was available to show them around campus and answer any questions they have.
Visiting students began the day with an ice breaker of ROCK, paper, scissors. They were treated to an opening welcome from Vice Provost Wanda Everage.
Everage dared the Bulldogs to do something positive: dream big and see themselves in college. She shared her own story of being told by a school counselor that as an African-American woman she should go work in a factory because she would never be able to attend college. Everage inspired students and challenged them to “eliminate the negatives.”
To further simulate a day in the life of a Drake student, the Bulldogs attended a mock humanities class with Assistant Professor of English Melisa Klimaszewski. She started class by telling students the biggest difference between high school and college is that they make the choice to be here. Students had the opportunity to analyze lyrics from “Cry Freedom” by Dave Matthews Band and share their many interpretations. Klimaszewski challenged the Bulldogs to see past the obvious.
“The knowledge you have matters,” she said. “This is what college builds off of.”
With time to spare before the end of class, Klimaszewski opened the floor to answer any questions the students had. Many of them asked about dorm life and admission requirements.
When asked what the best part about college is, Klimaszewski handed the question over to Ryan Price, Drake sophomore and Bulldog for a Day leader.
Price shared that he really enjoyed his newfound self without parental guidelines and having personal responsibility. When class was over, honorary Bulldogs met their host Drake students.
Markale Morrison, an East High School sophomore, shared that he was nervous about his day at Drake when it first began, but his host, first-year Nana Coleman, made him feel much more relaxed.
Both students gave the day positive feedback. Morrison said it made him less stressed about college, and he had a fun-filled day of “good food and good professors.” He also stated that the mock class made him feel confident he could succeed in a college classroom.
Coleman described the day as, “an enlightening experience” and remembered when he was a high school student with many questions. He enjoyed being able to help kids whose shoes he was in not too long ago.
All in all, Bulldog for a Day was a huge success. Everage shared that the hopes for the day were that students developed a passion for continued education. She also noted that the Office of the Provost has a program in the works to develop a partnership between Drake and local Des Moines high schools. It will pair current students with prospective ones to mentor them and better prepare them for college. This will be a positive reinforcement of Bulldog for a Day’s goal, which Price said would allow time for Des Moines high school students to meet their Bulldog neighbors and for us Bulldogs to meet our Des Moines neighbors.
“We have found that in one day we can have a tremendous impact on abolishing the preconceived notions we held of one another,” “and that is critical for us Drake students as good residents in this community, and critical for high school students who are thinking about college” he said.
The next Bulldog for a Day event is scheduled for Nov. 18. Students interested in being a host should contact Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Victor Cedano