Shadow day brings youth to campus

Rachel Alexander

Photo Credit : Bowman

Students eating lunch in Jewett last Thursday, April 22, might have been perplexed to discover a line out the door when they arrived at the dining hall. Amidst the signs about cheeseburgers causing global warming were about 50 students from Walla Walla High School visiting campus for Club Latino’s Shadow Day.

Shadow Day, now in its fifth year, is an annual event that aims to bring lower-income high school students, many of whom are Latino, to campus for a day and show them that college is a possibility.

“The purpose of this event is to get kids excited about applying for college,” said sophomore Aaron Aguilar, president of Club Latino. “There are kids that typically don’t go on many campus visits. They’re not really that exposed to college.”

The day began with a breakfast where the high school students  had a chance to meet Whitman students and ask them questions about college. After this, students were assigned to go to classes with Club Latino members and other Whitman students who had volunteered. The Walla Walla students also toured campus and had lunch with Whitman students and professors.

Nohemy Solorzano-Thompson, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures: Spanish,  feels that encouraging Latino students to attend college is critical.

“Latinos in the United States have one of the lowest graduation rates from high school,” she said. “For me as a Chicana, this is a crisis.”

Current Whitman senior Jazmin Lopez participated in the first Shadow Day five years ago. She said that although she lived in Walla Walla, Whitman wasn’t really on her radar.

“Even though I grew up here, I didn’t come on campus because it wasn’t part of the town I was in,” she said. Shadow Day inspired her to consider applying to private schools by showing her there were ways to afford schools like Whitman.

The Walla Walla students said they appreciated the opportunity to see campus.

“The library is just incredible,” said Walla Walla High School sophomore AJ Walker. Other students at the table enthusiastically agreed.

Marcos Medina, also a sophomore, said he wanted to study civil engineering in college. Though he would not be able to do so at Whitman, he enjoyed his visit.

“It’s a pretty cool school,” he said.

Growing up, Medina said college was not often on his mind.

“My parents didn’t go to college. They didn’t really prepare me at all,” he said. “They told me to get the education I needed, but since they didn’t go to college, they didn’t really know.”

Aguilar hopes that the event will be more than just a visit for the students. Club Latino provides students with packets of information about college, and stresses that students can contact their Whitman hosts at any time if they have questions or want to know more.

“Having these workshops helps them to feel like we’re approachable,” said Aguilar. He hopes to expand the program in the future, by keeping track of students and seeing how many of them end up applying to college.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to not just have this be a one-time event,” he said.

Lopez agreed that it is important students feel connected to Whitman.

“They need to know that they have this access,” she said. “It’s trying to integrate the community and Whitman.”