Inspiring young minds

Two hundred and thirty-eight middle school students took part in the 2015 Tar Heel Preview Day on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Oct. 30. The program, in its second year, was created to introduce male students from diverse backgrounds to the opportunities that await them in college.

UNC-Chapel Hill staff, faculty and student volunteers dedicated the day to inspiring the young minds to attend college. They also provided the middle schoolers with information related to planning for life during and after high school.

During one part of the day, students got hands-on experience through specialized group sessions that included topics such as The Art and Business of the DJ, Strawberry DNA Extraction, and Interactive Science.

Interactive Science gave students the chance to become lab assistants. Students who attended this session demonstrated a real interest in science, based on their reaction to the facilitator’s questions, and a strong background in science education. Using some simple appliances found in the kitchen, the students extracted a special pigment from cabbage and later used as a pH indicator to test the pigment. This specific session was designed to make participants think critically and analytically in their studies.

“It’s interesting to see that the kids don’t have to have anything super special – they can use the things they already have at home to start thinking about science,” said Rebecca Harris, a counselor at East Lee Middle School. “They learn better with hands-on, more engaging activities, not from worksheet after worksheet.”

Jordan Batts of East Lee Middle School was one of the most engaged students during the Interactive Science session. “I liked the fact that our facilitator was interactive and allowed us to do the experiments on our own,’’ Batts said. “Things like that really help me understand it better.”

During lunch, students enjoyed various performances from campus groups, including the Harmonyx. They also had a with a Q&A session with a Carolina student panel of CMSP Scholars and UNC Admissions. Videos were shown that showcased how Carolina students fuse their identity, academics and culture at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“The students are taking away more today than they’ll even realize,” said UNC-Chapel Hill first-year Brittany Grant, a UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs office staff member. “They think it’s just a day out of school, but they’re taking in everything Carolina has to offer. They’re seeing that anyone, no matter their background, can succeed when they put their mind to it. Even if they don’t realize it now, they’ll always associate Carolina with success and inclusiveness.”

Tar Heel Preview Day was hosted by the Carolina Millennial Scholars Program and the Minority Student Recruitment Committee, through Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Campus partners included the Institute for the Arts and Humanities Beats Lab Project, the School of Media and Journalism, Carolina Leadership Development, Morehead Planetarium, Ackland Art Museum, Minority Postdoc Association, Carolina Higher Education Opportunity Programs, North Carolina Central University’s Department of Biochemistry, UNC’s Visitors Center and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

For more information about Tar Heel Preview Day, visit cmsp.unc.edu/preview. To learn about other diversity initiatives at UNC, visit diversity.unc.edu.

By the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs

Published November 2, 2015.