College 101 hosted its first visiting high school of the semester at Central Michigan University on Friday.
Roughly 60 sophomores from Cody High School in Detroit arrived at CMU to learn about college. Through the program, founded by former CMU professor Paul Hernandez, high school students at risk of dropping out became inspired to pursue post-secondary education despite the many obstacles they face.
Hernandez founded College 101 in order to counteract the negativity the student participants face daily.
“I want to show them not only can they succeed, but that they are some of the brightest, most talented people on the planet,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said the students who visit CMU through the program come from lives of “homelessness, abusive households and drug-infested neighborhoods.” According to Hernandez, the hardest part about College 101 is knowing how difficult it will be for participants once they return home.
“The hardest part is knowing how hard it’s going to be for these kids to change their lives in the face of all the adversity that’s waiting for them,” he said.
The Cody High School students arrived at CMU around 11 a.m. and began the day with a presentation about college admissions and tuition. A group of 24 CMU student volunteers traveled with students around campus during their stay answering questions and giving advice about college.
Shepherd sophomore Josh Ericksen volunteered his Friday to walk around with Cody students and said every second was worth it. He said the students were especially energetic and outgoing.
“It was interesting because it was a rowdier group than I have normally had experience with,” Ericksen said, “But you could definitely see the change we made because they didn’t hold anything back.”
Ericksen has volunteered for College 101 since the first semester of his freshman year as a student in Hernandez’s class. He said he has continued volunteering for the program because of the impact he is able to make in the lives of visiting students.
“I continued with College 101 because I get to see the direct impact I have on students, and I can see the impact I make in only five short hours,” Ericksen said.
During the last part of the day, Cody students visited a lecture Hernandez was giving to CMU students. At that moment, Ericksen saw the impact College 101 had on visiting students.
“When the class ended, the kid sitting next to me turned to me and said, ‘I can do this,’” Ericksen said.