The Center for Alumni & Community Engagement is seeking student volunteers to guide K-8 students on campus tours. Hoping to encourage younger students to begin thinking about college, this program desires student guides who can create a warm, welcoming atmosphere at Pacific University.
This program targets schools in the Washington County area, with a primary focus on lower income areas. Katy Kilsdonk, Associate Director of Alumni and Community Engagement, described how students from these areas are the least expected to go to college, and thus it’s important to make college resources accessible to them.
“Our mission is not necessarily to get them to come to Pacific,” Kilsdonk explained. “It’s more to motivate them and allow them to believe that attending college is possible.”
These tours act as a conversation starter about the possibilities of attending university. “Regardless of your socioeconomic status, getting a college degree can completely change your life,” Kilsdonk remarked as a major tour takeaway.
Throughout the years this program has been in place, over 2,600 students in the Washington County area have had the opportunity to tour Pacific’s undergraduate campus. Kilsdonk excitedly added that while the program has not existed long enough for any tour groups to be pursuing higher education quite yet, she reserves hope they will in good time.
“At some point we’ll hopefully hear from these kids that potentially our early interactions with them helped, and that it launched them into college,” she reiterated.
To volunteer as a tour guide requires no prior training, besides a relaxed meeting with Kilsdonk prior to the tour. In this, the volunteer and Kilsdonk simply discuss the route, possible questions that may be asked and address any other inquiries the tour guide has.
By the end of the tour, guides share with students their personal story about coming to college; and this is arguably the most impactful factor. “Having someone in the room who’s in college or who’s graduated from college, and has a story that’s similar to the students present is very important,” Kilsdonk believes. And many student tour guides agree with this sentiment.
“To me it feels like giving back almost,” said senior and student volunteer Kymberlin Bush. “It’s like I’ve had the opportunity to go to college and it kind of feels like I’m helping out the next generation.”
Guiding these tours can often be just as fulfilling and enjoyable for student volunteers as the tour groups themselves.
“You get to interact with these kids that are so enthusiastic to learn more,” said student volunteer Seema Khatcherian. “It’s cute and heartwarming.”
Bush noted that the students she’s had the opportunity to guide around campus are “some of the most hysterical human beings I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
The program is currently looking for more students who are willing to be vulnerable and have a unique story to tell. These students — excited about guiding tours — are the ones that can truly motivate the younger students to consider college in their future plans, according to the center.
“We talk to the kids about how we got to college, and how that journey looks different for everyone,” Khatcherian shared. “So, I think the more variety of students that we have, the more we can get that message across that your journey to college can look so different.”
Students interested can choose from a myriad of tour dates they would like to guide, offering flexibility that meets everyone’s complex class and work schedule demands. To get involved with the K-8 tours, students are encouraged to visit the Center for Alumni & Community Engagement’s online page at pacificu.edu/alumni and fill out their registration form.
“The most inspiring part of all,” Kilsdonk concluded, “is getting to see a kid who has the weight of the world on their shoulders start to truly believe they have a shot at going to college.”