Approximately 115 regional high school students visited Radford University Wednesday, Nov. 13, to get a vibe for what life is like on a college campus.
RU's Appalachian Arts and Studies in the Schools (AASIS) is in its 17th year of mentoring and encouraging promising Southwest Virginia high school students, mostly sophomores and juniors, to pursue higher education. The program also provides students an opportunity to learn more about the culture of the Appalachian region.
AASIS brought to the RU campus its AASIS Scholars from Carroll County High, Eastern Montgomery High, Fort Chiswell High, Grayson County High, Patrick County High, Rocky Gap High and Rural Retreat High. The scholars toured the campus, took a journey through the stars at the RU Planetarium and were treated to a preview of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" in Pridemore Playhouse.
"For a lot of them, it's the first time they've set foot on a college campus," said Ruth Derrick, director of AASIS and adjunct professor in RU's Appalachian Studies program. "One of the main goals of AASIS is to demystify the college experience and to say, ‘this is a possibility for you.'"
The AASIS Scholars visit the RU campus twice a year. In the spring, Derrick noted, the scholars typically sit in on a class to gain "more of a real college experience."
RU's interaction with AASIS Scholars extends beyond campus visits. Throughout the year, RU students who work as AASIS mentors, visiting the scholars twice a year at their high schools and giving presentations about college life and about Appalachian studies.
Mentors and AASIS Scholars get to know each other and keep in touch throughout the year via letters and e-mail.
Teachers at high schools participating in the AASIS program identify students to enroll in the program. "We call them college-able, but not necessarily college bound," Derrick explained. "They have the intellectual capacity and the drive, but may not be seeking college because they have had little exposure to college."
Derrick said many of the AASIS Scholars would be first generation college students. RU is a popular destination for students who are the first in their family to go to college. More than 38 percent of RU's Fall 2013 student population are first-generation college students.
Over the 17 years of the AASIS program, more than 900 RU students have served as mentors to more than 2,000 high school students.