By mid-June, undergraduate outreach librarian Annette M. Vadnais will have traveled to Springfield 20 times this school year to help pupils understand that college is an option for their future.
Her efforts, supported by the university and UMass Amherst Libraries, are part of the College Matters for U program, which brings students from Springfield area schools to the UMass Center at Springfield to participate in a day of engaging activities.
The goal of the program is to educate students in grades K-12 about S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) career options and expose them to opportunities available after high school graduation, including applying to and attending college.
“College Matters for U is a program that really speaks to me. Being able to help kids realize that college is an option for them is really wonderful,” says Vadnais.
The College Matters for U program was launched in 2014 at the UMass Center at Springfield as part of Springfield Public Schools’ College and Career Awareness Month.
Vadnais graduated from UMass Amherst in 1999 with a B.A. in theater and received her master’s in library and information science from Simmons College in 2013. She is a first-generation college graduate from a low-income background
“My parents never spoke about going to college. My father had only finished the seventh grade.” says Vadnais. “Even though my parents wanted me to do well in school, there was no pressure to perform academically. After taking time off after high school and working at a grocery store, I realized that I wanted more.”
In her sessions in Springfield, Vadnais works with students in three age groups; elementary, middle, and high school. She tailors her time with each group in an age-specific manner, always telling the students the ways librarians are helpful and encouraging them to make friends with librarians at their school or local public library.
The high school students are more focused on what they want to do for a career, so for this group Vadnais discusses how libraries and librarians can help make their studies easier if they decide to go to college.
“I love working with students of all ages, teaching them not only about college but about how libraries and librarians can help them in their life.” says Vadnais.
Vadnais made her connection to College Matters for U by reaching out to Leykia Nulan, assistant provost for diversity at UMass Amherst, who spearheads the university’s ongoing efforts to increase diversity in the undergraduate student body. Nulan referred Vadnais to the UMass Center.
For more information about College Matters for U, contact Jamina Scippio-McFadden, director of marketing and community relations at the UMass Center at Springfield, 413/788-6277, firstname.lastname@example.org