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West Philadelphia middle schoolers learned about college life during College Day hosted by the Undergraduate Assembly. | Courtesy of Sola Park

Wondering why there were children roaming campus last week?

On Friday, the Undergraduate Assembly hosted College Day, during which 34 eighth grade students from Henry C. Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia had the opportunity to come to Penn and learn more about life at college. The event was headed up by the UA’s Social Justice Committee.

The morning was comprised of a brief introduction given by Assistant Vice President of Community Relations Glenn Bryan, followed by a panel with 2014 College graduate Marcus Mundy and College senior Gina Dukes. After the panel, Lea students took a tour of campus, stopping at the Perelman Quadrangle, the Engineering Quad, Van Pelt Library, College Hall, the Quadrangle and Locust Walk.

“The best part about this is that you are middle school students. You have an edge on this,” Bryan, a West Philadelphia native, said, stressing the importance of taking initiative as early as possible in the college application process.

The panelists introduced themselves and gave some background about their studies and extracurriculars at Penn, and then they opened the floor up to questions from the eighth graders.

“It’s a huge jump to go from high school to college, even in the same city,” Mundy said.

The two panelists discussed how they ended up at Penn and what it’s like going to an Ivy League institution located in an urban environment.

“If I wanted to go far and do what I cared about, I needed to go to college,” Dukes said. “Don’t sell yourself short and say you can’t go here.”

After the panel, students broke out for a tour led by the Kite and Key Society, followed by lunch at 1920 Commons. Then, they returned to Huntsman Hall for a mock Management 100 class.

The idea of a mock class originated at last year’s College Day, UA Social Justice committee member and College sophomore Sola Park said, and they brought it back this year with some changes. Three Management 100 teaching assistants led three different activities, one focusing on negotiation, another on impromptu speaking and the third called “group sculpture,” during which students worked together to represent an object such as a ship or car.

“Having the three different interactive activities, the students were more engaged this year than last year,” Park said.

Out of all the day’s activities, UA members determined that the panel was the most well-received portion of the day based on the feedback they got from the students.

“The panel really underscores the purpose of the day,” UA Social Justice Committee member and College senior Abel McDaniels said. “We had the realization to not just give the kids a chance to hang out on a college campus for the day, but also to start the more long-term conversation about higher education and access to college in general.”

Because the panelists come from West Philadelphia and have gone to some of the same schools as these students, McDaniels believes that this portion of the day was the most effective.

“The panel gave the kids an opportunity to see students who went to the same schools as them and are from the same communities as them and follow the path they took to get to Penn,” McDaniels said.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that 30 Management 100 teaching assistants led activities for students. It was actually three Management 100 TAs, not 30. The DP regrets the error.

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