Date April 24, 2024
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Local high school students get a taste of life on campus through College Day at Brown

About 350 students from Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls visited Brown University to immerse themselves in various aspects of the college experience as part of an inspirational and informative daylong program.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University student Michael Ochoa stood in front of an audience of about 350 high schoolers and asked them to see themselves in him.

Ochoa, now in his third year studying international and public affairs, shared how he grew up in Pawtucket and Central Falls, Rhode Island, as part of a low-income, formerly undocumented family and had “no idea what this whole college thing was about” before some of his high school teachers started talking to him about it.

“I see education as liberation,” Ochoa said. “I genuinely believe that it is the key for uplifting my family, our community and people to build a better future in which we have more folks who grew up like us at the decision-making table.”

Ochoa’s welcome kicked off this year’s College Day at Brown event, organized by leaders from the University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform and Office of the President to give Providence-area high school students a glimpse into everyday life as an undergraduate.

Now in its third year, the immersive day of events on Wednesday, April 24, took young students representing 17 high schools in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls across College Hill to explore Brown’s multitude of classes, athletic programs and community engagement opportunities. Participants took campus tours, interacted one-on-one with Brown students, staff and faculty, engaged in hands-on learning experiences, enjoyed lunch and listened to panel discussions on topics including the admissions process.

“Some of the students are visiting a college campus for the first time, and we want them to feel comfortable and welcome here,” said Joshua Corria, community programs manager at the Annenberg Institute. “We know that every single student can’t attend Brown for their college experience, but this day is about sharing with them the wonderful opportunities that a college education offers, no matter where they go.”

Before attending College Day, Jeru Carias, a student from Central Falls High School, already had Brown on his list of schools to which he might apply. But spending the day on campus made the idea of attending the University seem more real, he said. “My first impression is that the campus is really big,” he said. “And this is where I want to be.”

Students had the chance to get a taste of college classroom experience by attending interactive sessions in one of five areas: STEM, the liberal arts, education, entrepreneurship and social impact. Each chose from nearly 50 different sessions, with topics ranging from how to propagate plants, to the physics of levitating spheres, to the art of the elevator pitch.

In one liberal arts session, Brown University Library scholars Kimberly Toney, coordinating curator for Native American and Indigenous collections, and Christopher West, curator of the Black diaspora, invited students into the John Hay Library to learn about Black and Indigenous histories in Rhode Island through a bingo game. A group of 20 teens squeezed around a table to get a fast-paced lesson on topics including King Philip’s War and the former Providence mixed-race neighborhood Snowtown. 

Jaydan Wirawan, a junior at Central Falls High School who attended the session at the library, described it and the other events he attended throughout the day as eye-opening. Before he was invited to attend College Day, higher education wasn’t on his mind, he said. Now he’s excited to explore possibilities at Brown and other colleges and universities.

“My interest has been piqued,” Wirawan said.

Sienna Wills, a sophomore at School One in Providence, said her favorite aspect of the day was attending a session about book restoration. She also stopped by the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts to learn about the many creative tools, including 3D modeling and printing, available there, which was “super cool.” A high-achieving student, she said she participated in College Day because some of her friends attended last year and recommended the experience.

The event, which also includes professional development for local high school administrators, is one among an ever-growing number of ways in which Brown community members engage with Providence-area schools each year. The University works closely with leaders in Providence to support K-12 education through teaching, training and mentoring, research and volunteer efforts and financial investments aligned with school priorities. That engagement helps enrich students' classroom learning, transform physical spaces, innovate teaching practices and inform local education policy. In addition, area high school students have the opportunity to receive SAT preparation and tutoring from Brown students. 

“College Day at Brown gives us a chance to meet and build strong relationships with the guidance counselors and principals so we can create, develop and implement more sustainable programming during the school year,” Corria said.

Joining Brown students, faculty and staff in the morning's welcome session to give students a pep talk on the possibilities of post-secondary education were Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green and Providence Public Schools Superintendent Javier Montanez. Brown President Christina H. Paxson also spoke, encouraging students to apply to Brown or another college or university in Rhode Island. She also encouraged students to return to campus to explore it further. 

“We want you to come back and visit us,” Paxson said, “whether that’s as students here someday, or to see a soccer or basketball game, or maybe to come to one of our many lectures and art exhibitions that are open to everyone in the Providence community.”