Lake Michigan College tour seeks to spark interest in education

BENTON HARBOR — If eighth graders thought pursuing a college degree would consist solely of sitting in a classroom, they were shown the opposite last week during a College Positive community event last week at Lake Michigan College.

The event, which was organized by the Youth Advisory Council of the Michigan Gateway Foundation, invited students to visit LMC’s Benton Harbor Campus to explore various workshops and take a look at campus life.

The event attracted about 180 students to visit over the course of Wednesday and Thursday. Students from Niles, Buchanan, Dowagiac, Cassopolis and Edwardsburg visited the campus. Each school could send up to 30 students to participate. The schools identified and chose the most at-risk students to take part in the event, except for Brandywine Middle and High School which offered the trip on a first come first serve basis. 

While checking out classrooms was part of the tour, students also got a chance to learn about the culinary arts program through renowned chef Luis Amado. Amado, the program director for the culinary management program, also gave students the chance to sample chocolates, before they continued on their tour. Students also got to check out the new Hanson Technology Center where they saw 3D printers and welding technology. They also learned a bit about drones and the dental assistance program, to name just a few. 

Jayne Lamb, the YAC advisor and program coordinator, said the event was hosted last year at Lake Michigan College’s Niles campus, a satellite campus for the Benton Harbor-based community college. This year, Lamb said YAC felt bringing students to Benton Harbor would give them a more “well-rounded” view of what college classes and campus life are like. In addition to learning about the various programs offered through LMC, students also got the chance to look at on-campus apartments.

“It blows these kids away that that is a housing option for community college,” Lamb said

She said YAC students chose to allocate some of the grant money they have from the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation to bring the College Positive Program back again this year.

Lamb said the goal of College Positive is to spark a career interest and encourage participants to attend college. Through the tour, she said she felt students learned that college can be more hands on and that  there are a variety of programs out there.

“I think eighth graders might not be aware of what is available,” Lamb said. “Yes, you will have English and math, but this is what else you will have.”

Lamb said she knows the tour makes an impact on youth, based on the excitement she sees during the tour and the anonymous exit survey that seeks to gauge whether College Positive sparked any interest.

“I love the comments that these kids put on there. Some said, ‘now I know what opportunities are here,’” Lamb said.

After seeing what Amado can do with his skills, Lamb said at least two of the students said they wanted to become chefs.

In addition to learning about programs, students also learned about scholarship programs and that it is never too early to start thinking about the college of their dreams.

In the future, Lamb said YAC hopes to develop a way to track those who participate to see how long the tour makes an impression. Until then, Lamb remains confident that seeing a local college in action makes some impact on those aspiring for a career. 

“This is a big deal for them,” Lamb said. “It is exciting for them to have this chance.”

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