Fourteen sophomore students at Wichita North High School made valuable KU connections Sept. 20, when they were introduced to alumni who will serve as their mentors for next three years.
The group is part of the University’s new initiative, a product of the Office of Admission’s existing Helpful Alumni Working for KU (HAWK) program, to help underrepresented and minority students make a smooth transition from high school to college. The program was launched this spring in Wichita.
Participating students and their parents attended the induction ceremony, which was held at KU’s School of Medicine in Wichita and included appearances by Keon Stowers, c’15, a former KU football player who works for the Office of Admissions; Nate Thomas, KU’s vice provost for diversity and equity; and Baby Jay, who was on hand to take pictures with the students and their mentors.
Kim Madsen Beeler, c’93, j’93, g’99, who coordinates the HAWK program and has worked with alumni for years recruiting prospective students to KU, oversees the new Mentor Leadership Development program. She teamed up with Danielle Hoover, c’07, the Alumni Association’s assistant director of Wichita programs, to enlist area Jayhawks as mentors.
“These alumni are so passionate about KU, and they have told us for years they want to help,” Beeler says. “They want to make a difference and recruit great students.”
Students must have a GPA of at least 2.5 and complete an application and essay to be considered for the program. Those who are accepted are assigned mentors, who will coordinate opportunities for the students to shadow working professionals in various fields, participate in volunteer activities in the community and develop skills to be successful in the workforce, including learning how to fill out job applications, dress appropriately for interviews and create a résumé. In addition, the students will visit KU and participate in sports events, campus tours and discussion panels with current University students.
Hoover presented the opportunity to alumni on the Wichita Network board and was overwhelmed by their enthusiastic response. Five board members, Jim Spencer, c’82; Andy Ek, b’05, g’11; Monique Garcia Pope, c’96; Anna Ritchie, c’05, j’05, and Bob Nugent, c’77, l’80, signed up to be mentors, and other board members offered to host events for the students or help with their community service projects.
“One of the biggest initiatives on our board is to give back to the community,” says Hoover. “That’s a big passion for all of our board members. And it’s right in line with this initiative.”
Beeler hopes to expand the program at Wichita North High School next year and eventually include other schools in the area.
“This year we have 14 mentees, next year we’ll have another class, and we’ll just keep building,” she says. “The goal is to help students transition from high school to college and, hopefully, to KU. But also we want to engage our alumni, because they’re so important in recruitment. If we can get the alumni engaged and to help with recruiting, it’s a win-win for both of us.”
Stormy weather didn’t stop Wichita Network Jayhawks from proudly representing KU in a college and career night for AVID students, held earlier this month at Marshall Middle School in Wichita. Danielle Hoover, c’07, assistant director of Wichita programs for the Association, and Wichita Network volunteers Monique Pope, c’96, Geron Bird, c’97, l’01, and Janet Murfin, d’75, were on hand for the event, which helped young people learn about opportunities available to them after high school.
Marshall Middle School, a diversely populated school in the heart of Wichita, is one of more than 50 schools in Kansas that implement the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program to prepare students, especially those traditionally underrepresented in higher education, for success in high school, college and beyond.
“The students were very eager and willing to get information,” Hoover says. “They asked a lot of questions about what KU is like and what kind of programs we offer.”
Although tornado sirens in the area temporarily interrupted the event, the turnout was great and the event was a huge success, Hoover says. Most of the students attending were seventh- and eighth-graders from the middle school, although a few students from neighboring Wichita North High School also participated.
“These students look at college as a way of changing their lives,” Hoover says. “At some college fairs you hear students say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to college. That’s just what you do.’ It’s a standard. But with these students, they might be the first person in their family to go to school.”
Although the Wichita Jayhawks were earnest in their message to students about attending KU, the event wasn’t without its share of fun and games. When Hoover and the other school representatives stepped away from their tables to introduce themselves to parents and students, the Wichita Network volunteers jumped at the chance to have some fun with the Kansas State University representative.
“When we came back in, Janet, Geron and Monique had decorated his table with Jayhawks,” Hoover says. “He was a good sport about it, though.”
In the realm of student recruitment, campus visits are often pivotal events for prospective students. As a volunteer with the Helpful Alumni Working for KU (HAWK) program, Monique Garcia Pope of Wichita brought six high school students from her community to campus Nov. 15 for a visit led by Greg Valdovino, assistant director of admissions. Pope, c’96, shared this account following a great day on the Hill, which included visits at the Adams Alumni Center with Heath Peterson, vice president for alumni and student programs, and Jacey Krehbiel, alumni programs coordinator.
I contacted Greg several weeks ago to see if he could help facilitate a KU campus tour for six outstanding students I have worked with through my community involvement in Wichita and as a HAWK volunteer. The group included five students (four seniors and one sophomore) from Wichita North High School and a junior from Wichita West High School who had signed up with their guidance counselors to come for the tour: Brissa Gallegos, McKenzie Ortiz, Samuel Corravubias, Andrea Martinez, Angie Clare and Miguel De Alba Vallejo.
Never in my student recruitment volunteer outreach experience have I seen a more diligent group of students who are so smart, involved, motivated and kind, and I’m not just saying that because they’re students from Wichita. Truly, these students are outstanding! They asked great questions throughout the day, and one student brought her notepad with her and was jotting down notes on the drive back to Wichita–very impressive!
Most of the students are taking Advanced Placement classes, and the seniors are going to pursue the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
I knew that four of the six students had KU at the top of their college choices, but were wavering a bit, and that’s totally understandable at this stage. The list of other schools in contention for this group included Vanderbilt University, Boston College and New York University–but that was before they came to Lawrence!
Upon our arrival the KU Visitor Center, Greg arranged a fantastic housing tour. I could sense the students were really excited as we walked through some of the residence halls. We then returned to the visitor center auditorium with other prospective students, and Lee Furbeck, senior associate director of admissions, gave a great presentation. The bus/walking tour was lots of fun, and we truly enjoyed having lunch with Greg at the Union, asking him questions and hanging on to every word he said.
Earlier that morning, I had contacted Jacey and Heath to let them know we were in town and, if time permitted, we would like to swing by the Alumni Center. I apologized for the late notice but, as always, Heath and Jacey were available to share information on the Student Alumni Association and a few KU souvenirs. Heath gave us a brief tour of the Alumni Center, and the students were really impressed with the Association and the support provided to help establish the KU Hispanic Alumni Network. They mentioned that they’d like to be a part of KU HAN once they graduate from KU.
Greg suggested that if we had time before returning to Wichita, we could swing by Allen Field House and the Ambler Student Recreation Center. The center is a huge improvement over the Robinson Center I recall, and of course the students had a blast at the Field House.
What made me most proud was the collaboration in action, including Greg in the admissions office and Heath and Jacey at the Alumni Association. On the drive back to Wichita–we might as well have floated back home–the students were all on cloud nine. Some of them even “tweeted” to their followers about what an awesome time they had at KU, and they had clearly made their choice to attend KU because of Friday’s visit.
I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Greg for all that he did, and to Heath and Jacey for their warm welcome. Everyone worked to ensure that these six students had a wonderful experience on their KU campus tour. Without a doubt, all six now are eager to attend KU! Thanks to everyone for all you do.