APU Gets Eighth Graders Excited About College

by University Relations

On November 9, 250 eighth graders from Center Middle School in Azusa discovered the vast array of college disciplines and potential career paths at an innovative Eighth Grade Majors Fair developed by Azusa Pacific University. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly) and Citrus College participated alongside APU, each providing professors and students from 10 different majors to speak about their fields.

Themed “Passport to Your Future,” the fair served as a response to a need expressed by the Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) and research conducted by the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research that showed an opportunity to improve on middle-school-aged students’ knowledge of college majors. “We aimed to present Center Middle School students with a variety of options and show them how to connect their talents and interests to a major,” said Kristina Quezada, special events coordinator who planned the fair. “Eighth grade marks a critical year for students who are deciding whether or not they see college as a part of their future. The fair targeted students on the fence about higher education.”

“This event undergirds APU’s desire to collaborate for the good of the community as we provide ongoing support to AUSD, partnering with them to inspire and facilitate the college aspirations of Azusa children,” said Judy Hutchinson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research. “This is the ideal follow-up to our fourth grade College Headed and Mighty Proud (C.H.A.M.P.) program, now in its 20th year. The Eighth Grade Majors Fair provides just the right vision and direction as these students prepare to enter high school.”

On site to give a glimpse of what college can offer, Cal Poly presented agricultural majors such as animal health science, foods and nutrition, and plant science, while Citrus featured an array of programs, including emergency medical technician, performing arts, technical programs, and journalism. Some of APU’s participating majors included physical education, art, communication studies, and biblical studies. Each discipline incorporated an interactive activity such as displaying animal skeletons and involving students in art projects. “This fair represents a huge collaboration between the three schools, and we are linked by our mutual desire to serve our community,” said Quezada. “We have been asked by AUSD to expand the fair next year to include all three AUSD middle schools.”

APU students in the Leadership Influence and Impact course led by Gary Lemaster, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Leadership and College Student Development, assisted in planning the event by recruiting APU majors to participate. Charity Capili, MFA, professor in the Department of Art and Design, and APU art and design majors worked with Center Middle School’s advanced art teacher, Kabir Ghafari, and his students to decorate the venue with artwork. Center Middle School ASB helped advertise the event to their fellow students.

“This service project provided an excellent platform for my students to apply the concepts and skills learned in the classroom to a real-world situation,” said Lemaster. “Through their involvement, APU students served as positive role models for these middle school students. My hope is that they begin to see college as an option, and as they explore different educational and career paths, become excited about their futures.”