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R.I. middle school students get a taste of Brown

U. works with public school associations to bring youth to campus for ‘Day of Academic Discovery’

The noontime Sharpe Refectory rush was especially crowded Friday, as around 300 seventh and eighth graders from middle schools throughout Rhode Island swarmed campus for the “250+ Day of Academic Discovery.”

The program kicked off with a welcome from student leaders, including Undergraduate Council of Students President Todd Harris ’14.5, and undergraduate representatives on the 250th Steering Committee, Noelle Spencer ’14 and Jennifer Tsai ’14. President Christina Paxson also greeted the students, who then watched a video depicting life at Brown and listened to a spoken-word poem performed by members of the group “Word!”,  said Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations.

Crolly Sbet, an eighth grader from Nathan Bishop Middle School, said she enjoyed these speeches.

Groups of eight middle schoolers along with two chaperones each then attended two 50-minute workshops, one focused on the arts and another on science that featured topics ranging from Sanskrit to robotics, and had lunch at the Ratty, Quinn said.

The students then attended a series of student performances by groups including Lion Dance, Badmaash and the Jabberwocks, Quinn added.

Eighth graders Alicia Nelson, Alcy Stiepock Mackay and Evalene Deane from the Block Island School all said they enjoyed peering into an average student’s life at Brown, and especially appreciated the workshops in history and biology.

Olivia Cicerone, an eighth grader from the same school, said she found her science workshop centered around fertilization particularly interesting.

To organize the event, the steering committee reached out to public school associations across Rhode Island, including the Rhode Island Superintendent Association and the Principal’s Association, Quinn said. Last fall, the committee reached out to every middle school in the state, ultimately hosting groups of students from 32 schools across the state, she added.

The students were selected at the discretion of individual schools, but the committee emphasized the importance of choosing students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to visit a college campus in middle school. The purpose of the event was to “reinforce the value of higher education,” and to “deepen engagement with communities across Providence and Rhode Island,” Quinn said.

The program gave insight into a typical student’s life at Brown, Nelson said, adding that she was “excited to check out the performing arts programs.”

Many middle schoolers said they would consider the University when their turn came to apply for colleges.

Cicerone said she has always appreciated the fact that an Ivy League institution like Brown existed so close to home and was fascinated by the college experience she glimpsed during her visit.

But others did not see Brown in their future. “I don’t want to go to college so close to home,” said Dorbur Tarley, an eighth grader from Nathan Bishop Middle School.

Though the University has coordinated events for middle schoolers in the past, the “Day of Academic Discovery” was the first that occurred on such a large scale.

“It was more of a success than I could have imagined,” Quinn said.


A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the University's vice president for public affairs and University relations. It is Marisa Quinn, not Marissa. The article also misspelled the name of an undergraduate representative on the 250th Steering Committee. It is Jennifer Tsai '14, not Jennfier Tsai '14. The Herald regrets the errors.


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