Detroit high school students experience college life during college visit day


The “Day in the Life” program included simulated courses and interactive scenarios.

RJ Carter
Osborn High School junior RJ Carter visits UM-Dearborn’s bookstore during a campus “Day in the Life” college visit day.

When it comes to cars, RJ Carter knows how to repair them. But the Osborn High School junior would like to design and improve them too.

Carter was one of 30 students from the Detroit high school who spent the day on UM-Dearborn’s campus for the Office of Metropolitan Impact (OMI)’s “A Day in the Life” college visit day.

“I want to do cars all the way. See how they work, maybe do some design. If I saw how they worked, I could help make them even better,” said Carter, who is considering a major in engineering. “That’s one of my goals, but I need to figure out how to make it happen. After today, I’ve got a better idea.”

During the daylong event, Carter and his classmates visited the START office to meet an adviser. They stopped into the Office of Financial Aid to learn about scholarships and financial aid packages. They visited the Office for Student Engagement to learn about organizations and clubs on campus.

The high school juniors and seniors also attended simulated course lectures, taught by Marketing Associate Professor Crystal Scott, Multiculturalism Lecturer Truman Hudson, and Geography and Urban & Regional Studies Assistant Professor Joshua Akers.

Brendan Gallagher, OMI’s opportunity coordinator for Neighborhood Service Organization Youth Programs, said this Day in the Life visit was different than the average high school visit experience.

Instead of leading students through the traditional campus tour, Gallagher organized an interactive experience to help de-mystify college life.

“It’s good to walk around campus and show what we have to offer. But for many students, it’s even more important to give them an engaging experience to build skills, connect them to resources and remove some of the anxiety about college,” said Gallagher, who partnered with Neighborhood Services Organizations, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation and Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG). “It’s all about positive youth development and creating pathways to higher education. We want them to know that the support is out there—not only to go to college, but to succeed once here.”

Brian Frick, a JMG specialist who teaches with Osborn High School, said the youth are talented and bright, but they typically don’t have the exposure to see what educational opportunities exist after high school.

“These kids are smart. But when you haven’t been outside of your neighborhood and you don’t know anyone who’s gone to college, it’s not something that’s easily understood,” said Frick, who said the interactive campus scenarios were beneficial. “Today I’ve heard students who have previously dismissed going to college, now considering it. That’s big.”

Standing in the campus bookstore, Carter did a simulated textbook order. Looking around the bookstore at all the maize and blue, Carter said he liked being on campus.

“People have told me that college is too hard. That makes me worry about failing. But now, I think I’ll be OK,” Carter said. “It’s going to take me a minute and I know it will take work, but I can do it. I can’t wait to go to college.”