Pathways scholars from Central Michigan University, stepping off the plane in England this summer was a chance to delve deep into culture and history. The three-week class, which included writing and British culture lessons at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, was the CMU Pathways program's first-ever study abroad experience.
The class provided information and discussions about key milestones, historic events and locations, and the way people live and interact in British culture. In addition to work in the classroom, students and their two advisors took tours with local guides to places throughout England and Wales, including York, Manchester, Liverpool and the Lake District.
"Without Pathways, I probably wouldn't have considered a trip like this until later in life, and it probably wouldn't have been the incredible experience it was," Joshua Jones, a junior from Detroit, said. "We walked out of the train station, and we were immersed in that culture."
The Pathways program provides college opportunities and other support to first generation and Pell Grant-eligible students. It is funded by a grant administered through the
Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development Agency and the
CMU's Director of GEAR UP and Pathways to Academic Student Success, Mary Henley, hopes this is the first of many opportunities for the Pathways scholars to
study abroad at CMU.
"This is an advanced leadership and learning experience that builds on the other activities Pathways scholars can engage in throughout the year, including mentoring high schoolers in Flint and Harrison," Henley said. "It is exciting to see how their world grows as a result of the chance to learn in another country and share that knowledge with younger students."
Capturing the adventure
Class writing assignments not only helped improve expression and technique, they also were an exercise in communicating across cultures. Edge Hill professors did not allow the use of American colloquialisms or the contractions commonly used in less formal writing.
"The expectations for our writing assignments were high, but it pushed me," said Eboni Ross, a sophomore from Detroit. "There is nothing now that I can't do and this class just proved that."
In addition to strengthening their writing skills, discussing culture and visiting historic sites, the students had a front-seat view as issues such as the "Brexit" decision continued to unfold.
"Without Pathways, I probably wouldn't have considered a trip like this until later in life, and it probably wouldn't have been the incredible experience it was."
Joshua Jones, Detroit
Jazlyn Young, a student from Grand Rapids who just wrapped up her freshman year, travels often in the U.S., but said there were still some surprises as they ventured to various towns.
"One of my favorite parts was the chance to see so many regions. Each was completely different and amazing," Young said. "My advice to younger students is to always branch out. Be curious, be hungry for it and seek opportunities to explore."
The group wrote journals and reflected on their experiences over the course of their journey. By the conclusion of their writing-intensive class, each person had developed a full report on British culture.
The study abroad course was the first component of a leadership initiative funded by CMU's Office for Institutional Diversity and MI Gear Up. The initiative also includes participation in the national GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy and a similar cultural experience to New Orleans with
CMU's MI GEAR UP partner schools in Harrison and Flint.
Guiding the next generation
When the CMU students and their advisors returned to campus, preparations began to pass on the lessons they learned to this next generation of community leaders and college students. Harrison and Flint students arrived on campus earlier this month for the annual GEAR UP Summer Adventure.
"My advice to younger students is to always branch out. Be curious, be hungry for it and seek opportunities to explore."
Jazlyn Young, Grand Rapids
The first Summer Adventure was held in 2002. CMU has worked with the current group of students, who are now in their senior year of high school, for the past five years. As part of this year's Summer Adventure programming — which includes classes, leadership training and college tours at CMU — the Pathways scholars delivered presentations on the regions they visited in Great Britain and helped the high schoolers prepare for their college and cultural education road trip to New Orleans.
"GEAR UP is about finding a best-fit university. It is about college being accessible, affordable and achievable," Henley said. "We look forward to many of these high school students joining us next year as CMU freshmen and Pathways scholars."
For the CMU students, showing younger students the wealth of opportunities available to them in college was thrilling and meaningful.
"I want them to know that this is possible for them, too," said Anjanette Haggard, a CMU senior from Flint who began her involvement with GEAR UP in seventh grade. "Everywhere I've been is because of my involvement in GEAR UP and Pathways. I'm so grateful for these programs."