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Getting a glimpse of college life

Seventh-grader Gloria Boggs had mixed feelings about her visit to Furman.

After spending the day with professors and even singing a capella in the dining hall with two Furman music majors, Boggs’ outlook began to change.

“At first, I didn’t think I wanted to come here,” said Boggs, 13, who is considering a career in a health-related field. “After sitting in the classroom, it made me think this would be a good place for me.”

Approximately 60 sixth- and seventh-graders from Greenville Early College traveled to Furman last week for an inside look at campus and some interactive classroom visits.

The Greenville Early College program, launched in Fall 2012 and housed at the University Center in Greenville, is a partnership between Greenville County Schools, Furman University, Clemson University, the University Center and USC Upstate. The goal of the program is to meet the educational needs of students in a personalized learning environment that will assist them toward becoming the first in their families to attend college.

The primary focus in middle school will be literacy, mathematics and critical thinking skills, with the opportunity to enroll in dual credit classes in high school. Students will be visiting Furman twice each semester to engage in enrichment and academic activities.

“Our tag line, is ‘Developing a College State of Mind,’” said Early College Principal Mark Joseph. “These visits play an important role in assisting us with developing our students. We use these visits to allow our students to envision themselves in that college environment.”

Furman served as part of the planning committee for several years prior to the opening of the program, said Lesley Quast, assistant academic dean for advising. Traditional early college programs begin in high school, but Greenville’s program is unique in that it begins much earlier, in sixth grade. Its location at the University Center also provides ready access for additional teaching support from interns in local graduate teacher education programs, Quast said.

This fall, Furman hosted a week-long summer day camp for incoming sixth-graders. From the beginning, the camp focuses on team-building, establishing trust and emphasizing character development, Quast said.

As part of last week’s visit, sixth-graders took a campus tour with Brooks Terry ’15 and visited with Arielle Comer ‘16, who talked about her Furman experience and study opportunities available to students.

Seventh-graders got an astronomy lesson and talked about science careers with physics professor David Moffett and took a virtual trip to the Czech Republic with education professor Michael Svec. The visit tied in with what seventh-graders are learning in science and social studies classes.

“We want students to see things from a broader perspective,” said Early College math teacher Genia Webb. “Maybe this will spark a passion for a student as far as science, or perhaps they’ll be moved to learn more about other cultures.”

A highlight of the day was mingling with Furman students and sharing lunch together in the Dining Hall. Middle-schoolers wanted to know what it’s like to live in a dorm, how to survive college classes, whether Furman students are allowed to eat off campus, and what kinds of clubs and activities are available for them.

“It’s a day I’ll always treasure,” said Stephanie Simon ’16, who came with her roommate, Teaching Fellow Kendall Driscoll ‘16, to visit with Early College students.

To break the ice with students, Simon jumped in and sang “Amazing Grace.”

“I hope the students realize how much potential they have,” Simon said. “It was an amazing experience, and it proved to me again how music can settle differences, transcend boundaries and build relationships.”

While the program is still in its infancy, Joseph said he is already seeing some success stories. “Students who have been turned off by schooling are now beginning to change their attitude and mindset concerning school and education,” he said. “Many of our students are now developing an honest work ethic, which is now paying off.”

Boggs, who spent time with Simon and Driscoll, said she’s glad her recent visit to Furman won’t be her last.

“I think it’s a wonderful college,” said Boggs, whose favorite subjects include science and math. “I would like to visit some more classrooms and see the different teaching styles.”

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