KOKOMO, Ind. — Kenzie Lawhorn got a head start on her senior year of high school, by becoming a college student for two days.
Lawhorn, along with about a dozen other high school juniors and seniors, experienced student life at Indiana University Kokomo as part of the Indiana GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness of Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) summer bridge program.
During their time on campus they participated in simulations in nursing and the crime lab, learned about plants and trees in the greenhouse, visited the Observatory, tried salsa dancing, and gained money and time management skills, as part of a state-wide program to prepare students for college.
It’s going to help Lawhorn make her final choice about where to go after she graduates from Maconaquah High School.
“I wanted to see college life, what it looks like to be on a campus, and also have an experience during my summer before I became a senior,” she said. “It’s my first time here, and I was surprised to see the campus was so big.”
Christina Romeo-Ivanova, assistant professor of education, led the two-day program with Tara Kingsley, associate professor of education. She said the GEAR UP program is part of IU Kokomo’s mission to increase the number of north central Indiana residents who have earned a college degree.
“It’s about not only introducing students to college life, but careers they can consider,” she said. “They see the options available with four-year degrees, two-year degrees, and technical schools, and what jobs those can lead to in the future. Our goal is to have them thinking ahead when they choose what to do after high school.”
Arionna Coleman, a Kokomo High School senior, already knows she wants to go to IU Kokomo, but was happy to confirm her decision with a visit.
“Being here and meeting people is different than just driving past,” she said.
Owen Cotterell, also a Kokomo senior, is still deciding on his college, but was glad to talk to professors and see what majors are available, which will help him make his choice.
“I was interested to see what classes they have, so I know what I can do,” he said.
In addition to participating in college-type classes, students explored financial literacy, financial aid, growth mindset and development of character strengths, employability skills and career options, and mental and physical wellness.
Romero-Ivanova added that they shared information about the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program, the campus’s distinctive experiential learning program that offers opportunities for low-cost travel in the United States and overseas; dynamic internships, and research with faculty.
“We want them to know what their options are,” she said. “We want them to go to college or a technical program after high school, and we especially hope they consider coming to our campus. As we bridge the gap between high school and college, they can see the possibilities ahead of them.”