Feel Good Friday: LARP Sponsors College Matters For U Program

Friday, November 20, 2015

This fall, the Department of Landscape Architecture partnered with Career Services, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the College of Nursing, along with other outside institutions, to launch the first annual College Matters for U program at the UMass Center at Springfield. This program encourages K-12 students in the Springfield area to consider their future, explore career paths, and network with leaders and faculty.

The program took place in October, which is the Springfield Public Schools’ College Awareness Month. The UMass Center hosted three elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools—totaling over 200 students. Jamina Scippio-McFadden, Director of Student Services, Academic Support, Marketing & Community Relations at the UMass Center, was a major proponent in organizing this event.

“The idea was birthed after a teacher brought her students to the Center for a tour earlier this year,” explains Scippio-McFadden. “I was charged with creating a meaningful program for students. Through our partnership with the Springfield Public Schools, this program took the form of College Matters for U with a focus on STEM careers.”

Throughout the program, students participated in short sessions geared toward their respective grade levels. Many high school students received sessions on financial aid.

Frank Sleegers, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, was among the faculty members who taught throughout this program. He taught three introductory courses about Urban Design in Landscape Architecture for middle school students, showing them a video produced in his last graduate Urban Design Studio, in which his students collaborated with Putman Vocational School students to create public art. He also explained a community outreach project in Forest Park and how it targets safe walking and healthy living through redesigning urban streets, explained principles of green infrastructure, and showcased physical models of Springfield to explain the problems of storm water.

“I think it’s great to raise awareness at any age about what a college education can mean for students,” says Sleegers. “It offers new perspectives and goals to students. It also makes the effort to embed our university in a regional context and fulfill our mission of a land-grant university. This program not only embraced UMass, but other locally accessible colleges and non-profit educational institutions.”

Sleegers hopes the UMass Center will continue this program next October. In the meantime, the Center will host an additional nine schools for daylong visits to the center from January to June 2016. The Center’s long-term goal is to offer a yearlong program that expands to other school districts in the Pioneer Valley.

To learn more about the UMass Center in Springfield, visit their webpage.