It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip that is changing the lives of some Detroit teenagers.
“A lot of these kids have never left Michigan,” said Cecilia Holland, academic adviser at Eaton Academy in Eastpointe, Mich. “This is their first time out of the state. This is a chance to expose them to things they’ve only seen on TV or heard about.”
A group of 26 students from the charter school are spending this week on the Kansas University campus after the school adopted KU for a class project.
The students, who just completed their junior year, devoted the past year to raising money for Audio-Reader, which provides services to visually impaired people. Eaton English teacher Joni Lantry Kostich brought up the idea. Her dad is a volunteer for Audio-Reader.
“I want to express how important this is to my students,” Lantry Kostich said. “So many of them see little hope for leaving Detroit and have very little expectation from the world around them.”
Her students embraced the idea, holding every sort of fundraiser they could think of to raise money for the organization.
“It’s actually something we wanted to do,” Eaton student Bre’Shawnna Cobb said. “We’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing, trying to do as much as we can for Audio-Reader.”
Now the students are getting something back.
KU is hosting the students for a weeklong visit. They arrived in Lawrence on Monday night, checking into Ellsworth Hall after a 16-hour bus ride.
It’s part of the school’s “no excuses” program, trying to ensure every student is college-bound.
“We’re trying to make college more of a reality for the students by giving them exposure to the universities, because for a lot of them, they may be the first one in their home to even consider college,” said Jessica Smith, Eaton guidance counselor.
No one in Britney Jackson’s family has attended college, and she had never before left Detroit. Already, after spending just one day on the KU campus, Jackson thinks college is a very real possibility. The 16-year-old wants to be a pediatrician.
“I would be the first (in my family) attending,” Jackson said. “I want to go out of state, but the way tuition is looking, I really don’t know, but I will have Kansas as a choice.”
Tuesday the students toured campus, attended presentations about financial aid and admissions, and attended a cookout at Audio-Reader.
Today, their activities take them to Topeka, and include touring the Kansas Capitol, meeting Gov. Mark Parkinson and touring the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Thursday, they’ll go to Kansas City to visit the KU Medical Center, tour the Negro League Baseball Museum and attend a Kansas City Royals game, before heading home Friday.
Eaton Academy Principal Thomas White said the program has been an incredible experience for his students.
“We want to thank KU. This has been fantastic, the way they’ve embraced us, opening their arms to our students and our school,” White said. “It’s real to them now, it’s tangible. They’ve seen it, they’ve touched it, they’ve walked the campus, and now when they go back to the school for their senior year, they can actually get down to business so they can achieve their dreams.”