Sixth graders go to college, for a day
As a group of sixth graders walked out of the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center and along the sidewalk toward Whitt Hall, one excited member of the group spontaneously extended his right arm and offered a high five to a Radford University student passing by.
“That kid just gave me a high five,” the surprised college student said.
And with that gentle slap of hands, the jovial William Byrd Middle School student and his classmates embarked on their daylong tour to explore the university campus.
For the past four years, the Radford University’s School of Teacher Education and Leadership has hosted sixth graders from Roanoke’s William Byrd Middle as part of the College in Six initiative.
The program encourages middle-school teachers and administrators around Virginia to take sixth graders to visit colleges to engage in meaningful activities and learn more about the higher education experience.
“We find that, with our kids in particular, a lot of them don’t have family members who went to college and they don’t really understand what it means to go to college,” said William Byrd Middle Principal Todd Kageals ’93, MS ’03. “We bring them here to Radford University to give them an understanding of what college life is like. Many of them have never been on a college campus.”
This year, 274 students visited the university over two days on Nov. 2 and 3; that’s more than double the amount who visited on the initial tour in 2014.
Before walking around campus and mingling and high-fiving with college students, the middle schoolers who visited Nov. 3 were greeted in the Hurlburt Auditorium by Director of Operations for Enrollment Management Allison Pratt, who informed the group of the many academic and extracurricular options offered by the university.
“I realize that thinking about what you want to study in college seems like a decision you don’t have to make for many years. And you’re right,” Pratt said to the antsy middle schoolers who were eager to infiltrate the campus. “But thinking about going to college is a dream that I hope you have every day. College is a place where you can experience a lot of new opportunities.”
From the auditorium, the young students scampered through campus and stopped by such places as the new Recreation and Wellness Center and McConnell Library.
They had lunch in Dalton Dining Hall, which is always a hit, and finished the tour playing games with Health and Human Performance faculty members and a group of college students who are health and physical educations majors.
“It was really fun to learn about all the different things here,” said sixth grader Kallie Niday. “There are so many amazing things here, like all the new buildings and the library.”
Even as a sixth grader, Niday said she had begun thinking about college “a little bit because I have to make sure I have a good future.”
STEL Professor Betty Dore, who organizes the visits, said the middle schoolers who visit campus each year are “very impressed and want to learn more when they come here. If we can give them the opportunity to visit our campus, maybe they will want to come to Radford University in 2026.”