A seed has been planted in the minds of some Shields Middle School students: going to college can be a reality, and they now know what a university campus looks like.
More than 40 English Language Learners and Migrant students boarded a charter bus for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg feeling nervous and excited. For some students, it was the first time they’ve been out of Hillsborough County.
“I hope that it opens their minds to the future. I hope that they can see the long-term goal. And I hope that not only do they look to graduate high school, but they look beyond that,” said Silvia Valdovinos, Shields Middle School Migrant Advocate.
The experience wouldn’t have been possible without the support from the business community. The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce and its members, Gomez Law and All American Title donated $2,500 to fund the trip for the students.
“It’s great. It makes a big impact in their life. They go on to talk about it for a long time,” said SouthShore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Rimes. “It’s all about experiences for these kids as well. Our Chamber members have been glad to support it. This is our second year. Without their support the funds weren’t there. A lot of the kids have never even gone over the Skyway Bridge – at all – never even seen it, so it’s a beautiful experience.”
Members from USFSP’s College of Education greeted the students as they stepped off the bus and onto their first college campus. For eighth grade student, Diana, she was seeing a glimpse of what her future could be.
“I know what I want to do when I grow up, and see what it looks like there to see if I like that college, so I could go. I’m planning to be a nurse, so hopefully I get there, graduate high school, take a little break, and then keep on going with school. I want to continue to help kids with disabilities, because I was put through a situation where I would have been in a wheelchair and that’s making me want to help them,” said Diana, a Shields Middle School eighth-grader.
The middle schoolers took a tour of the campus and heard what college is like from USFSP students and graduates, many who shared their Latino backgrounds and talked about their successes and challenges they had to overcome.
The USFSP hosts had students complete a writing exercise that laid out their academic and life goals and vision for the future. “Being a veterinarian is a goal, but now we’re writing the ideas of how to get there,” USFSP Community Liaison Harris Ambush told students.
Ambush said the Shields Middle School students are the type of students USFSP would love to have as future Bulls. “Our College of Education was honored to host them, as we are dedicated to assisting all students in the creation of ideas that will turn into goals, and goals that will turn into reality,” Ambush said.
School leaders also hope the trip expanded students view of the world around them. “We want them to experience something different, from the community where they’ve always been at. Get to know St. Petersburg, get outside of the Ruskin and Wimauma area, and also meet different people,” said Marisol Montoya, Shields Middle School migrant advocate.
Business donors said they support the trip to help the students succeed in school and in life. “We’re here to help celebrate the kids, so they can get that college experience and hopefully brighten our future. I’m hoping they all go to college and get the experience, so they can further their education to help their children and help the next generation to keep moving on,” said Vanessa Morgan from All American Title, a trip sponsor.
Students received a “golden ticket” from USFSP. It serves as a reminder of the visit that’s also meant to motivate and inspire students to continue to work hard in school and dream of what’s to come after graduation. The ticket read: “A Ticket to your Future in College featuring Any Career You Choose.”
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