The USF St. Petersburg campus welcomed nearly 50 students from the Pinellas County Urban League's Summer Training in Youth Leadership & Employment (STYLE) program for a two-day, one-night stay during a college and career exploration experience last week. For many, it was their first time on a college campus.
The program, called Discover Your PATHe, was organized by Pinellas Access to Higher Education (PATHe), a community outreach partnership between USF’s St. Petersburg campus and St. Petersburg College that seeks to provide equitable and attainable pathways to higher education for all students.
“Most of these students are at the beginning of their high school experiences and it is important to engage with them early and show them opportunities that are available,” said Xavier Ramos, assistant director of PATHe. “Let’s get them exposed to the college environment as soon as possible so they can make informed decisions for themselves.”
The group consisted of rising freshmen, sophomore and juniors, as well as chaperones from the Urban League STYLE program. STYLE is funded by the city of St. Petersburg and provides hands-on training and workplace-related skills such as financial literacy, technology and team building over an eight-week period for youth ages 14-16.
The immersive college experience included an overnight stay in Ibis Hall. Students also participated in a number of activities that highlighted key aspects of the college experience, from touring the campus and eating in the dining hall, to sessions on college fit, academics, admissions, financial aid and socializing with current college students.
“The students are really doing something that they have never been exposed to. To be part of this program and come to campus, it exposes opportunities beyond high school and I hope with this experience, it opens their eyes to so many more things and can guide them in their future,” said Michael Boykins, director of youth and family services at the Pinellas County Urban League.
Staff with PATHe hope to continue working with the Urban League to create higher education experiences for additional students. The PATHe program also plans to connect with other organizations throughout the region to meet the community’s needs and assist high school students who aspire to higher education.
“As a program, we engage with students throughout the academic year in workshops and one-on-one conversations,” Ramos said. “We can show them pictures and videos and talk to them about the college experience, but to actually go and be a part of it and have a memorable experience, that’s something that sticks.”