Lehigh welcomed 700 pint-size visitors to campus on Monday as part of a program designed to give young students early exposure to college. The young scholars, all second- graders, came from New York City’s Success Academy Charter Schools.
The Success Academies are free, high-performing public charter schools serving children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Each year, the network sends students to visit a college or university in an effort to start them thinking about their academic futures.
Chuck Strauch ‘57, a member of the board for the consortium of schools, suggested Lehigh as a great place for the students to visit. Henry Odi, vice provost for academic diversity, put together a program that would educate and excite the students about life at Lehigh.
The students were accompanied by 170 teachers and 30 other adults from their schools.
“It’s important for Lehigh to participate in preparing the next generation of college students,” says Odi. “We want to let them know that they too can attend college. There’s research that supports the idea that if you start preparing students early, they have a better chance of attending college later in life.”
Science, robotics and a moment with C.J.
Students were exposed to a variety of activities, including classes with Gary DeLeo, professor of physics, and John Spletzer, associate professor of computer science and engineering.
Spletzer showed the students how a motion-sensing input device can use infrared light to track people and objects like colored balls and the ties the boys were wearing. He also showed in a video how real-world robots, including wheelchairs and cars, drive without human input.
DeLeo gave demonstrations using sound, light, electricity and ring vortex. He was assisted by a former student, Nina Fink ’05, ‘06G, who studied astronomy and secondary education at Lehigh and now oversees the science program in 13 of the Success Academy schools.
“Nina is a great Lehigh success story,” says DeLeo. “It’s nice to know that we moved someone who has gone on to make a huge difference in the world.”
The young students also heard a presentation from Krista Evans, senior associate director of admissions, who encouraged everyone to work hard in school and find activities they love to participate in outside of the classroom.
One of the most memorable parts of the day was the screening of a film of highlights from the Lehigh basketball team’s win over Duke in the NCAA Tournament. Many of the students were also “star struck” after meeting C.J. McCollum ‘13, a journalism major and a guard on the men’s basketball team.
“At this young age, students are so impressionable,” said Evans. ”I think we can all recall events from our childhood, particularly from elementary school, that molded us into the people we are today.
“Seeing hundreds of young children in Lehigh t-shirts, cheering as they watched the Lehigh/Duke game highlights was heart-warming and gave me goose-bumps,” said Evans. ”And as they giggled at Gary DeLeo’s presentation, I couldn’t help but think—this will inspire them to love science.”
Odi said there has been wonderful feedback from the scholars and the school’s administration as well as the Lehigh students who presented and led tours of the campus.
“There’s a chance these students could one day return to Lehigh as part of the Class of 2026,” he said.
The visit was sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Chuck Strauch, Just Born Inc., Lehigh, and the university’s Barnes and Noble Bookstore.
Photos by Christa Neu