Empowering Middle School Students to Believe in Their Future

By: Kristine Cody

Spring semester at the Center for Academic Service-Learning & Research is bustling with activity. The overcrowded, color coded master calendar is a daily reminder of the many professors and students committed to serving and learning in the Azusa community. A distinctive of this time is the intentional programs focused on increasing college awareness and readiness for middle school students. Welcome to CASLR’s March Madness!

8th Grade Majors Fair

The 8th Grade Majors Fair is in its second year of existence and already demonstrating phenomenal growth and impact. It is designed to give middle school students exposure to academic majors and extracurricular activities, so that they can envision a future at college and begin to take intentional steps to prepare during their high school years. This event is made possible by the collaboration of three higher education institutions (Azusa Pacific University, Cal Poly Pomona , and Citrus Community College) and has grown to reach a total of three middle schools (Center Middle School, Foothill Middle School, and Slauson Middle School). It will take place on March 14th from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Memorial Park North Recreation Center.

Brain Awareness Week

The second annual Brain Awareness Fair is occurring March 11th through 17th in celebration of National Brain Awareness Week. Dr. Skyla Herod and her neurobiology students are providing learning opportunities for Azusa Pacific University students, as well as Azusa Unified School District middle schools to communicate practical concepts on brain health. APU students can benefit from attending two lectures and/or visiting a publicity booth. In addition, the neurobiology will be presenting to seventh graders at Slauson Middle School on March 18th, to Center Middle School on March 19th, and Foothill Middle School on March 20th.

Cougar Pals

For over a decade, Azusa Pacific University’s (APU) Cougar Pals program has been providing mentorship for at-risk middle school students. This long-standing partnership with the Azusa Unified School District has grown in its capacity and impact, reaching all three district middle schools and having a high parent-request rate as a result of the proven outcomes. The potential benefits are many and include an increase in student’s ability to focus in class, positive changes in behavior, and improvements in course work. APU social work students are partnered with middle school students to provide academic and social support on a weekly basis. The culminating experience is a visit day to APU’s campus on March 21st from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. during which students are given a tour and have the opportunity to ask questions about college.


Kristine is a graduate assistant serving at the Center for Academic Service-Learning & Research serving as the 2012-2013 Coordinator for Student Professional Development. She is working towards her Master's of Science in College Counseling and Student Development.