What happens when you combine four dedicated chaperones from Miami Springs Senior High School, 37 hard-working 11th grade students, and one bus driver? You get an exciting three day road trip visiting five colleges across the state of Florida.
The eager group from Miami Springs Senior High School gathered before the sun came up last Monday and began a journey that would take them to the University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of South Florida, and Florida Gulf Coast University.
MSSH Principal Edward Smith, spearheaded the event and his team included Assistant Principal, Anthony Saunders, CAP Advisor, Barbara Martinez, and school Counselor, Corina Mills.
“The purpose for the trip was to expose our students to opportunities that are available to them. Too many times our students do not have the financial means to travel to these universities and colleges, I wanted to provide that opportunity for them,” said Principal Smith. “We often talk to our students about college and the pursuit of higher education however we seldom give them the chance to experience it first-hand. We need to awaken within our students the possibilities and opportunities of a new reality that is within their grasp.”
“I would say that not even 20 percent of the students that we took on the trip had ever even been to one of the five universities that we visited. Before going on the trip the majority felt that going away to college (or even college itself) was not within their academic and/or financial possibilities, this experience changed that for them.”
The College Road Trip was initially promoted during an 11th grade assembly. Interested students applied by writing an essay. Selected students needed to meet a certain criteria such as a minimum un-weighted 2.5 GPA, excellent attendance, passed FCAT Reading test, passed Algebra I EOC test, and have taken the ACT or SAT test at least once.
Unlike other high schools where students have to pay out of pocket to cover hotel, transportation, and meal expenses, this trip was free to students. The participating students did contribute with a little sweat equity by hosting a carwash to raise funds which paid for all meal expenses.
“I think the best part of the entire trip was actually being given the opportunity to see universities I probably wouldn't have been able to visit on my own,” said Celeste George, 11th grader at MSSH. “It was an extremely eye opening experience that definitely gave me a few things to think about regarding my future. After this trip I am excited for what the future may hold.”
Before the trip students prepared a group presentation that included information about each university; when the school was founded, required SAT/ACT scores, and fun facts. Once at the university, students presented their information. They were also given a tour of the campus.
Golden Hawks united as the current students met MSSH alumni who are currently attending the university. They offered advice about transitioning from high school to college, how to complete the application process, and they shared their own experiences about campus life.
“After touring through all the various campuses I decided that I should wait to make a decision,” said Alain Perez, 11th grader at MSSH. “I came to the conclusion that although I would have fun at whichever college I choose, I would have to work extremely hard to get there and once I am there I would have to work even harder to stay there.”
“Our bus driver, Rolando Barreiro, (of Classic Bus Lines Bus Company) was always professional, pleasant, and even went out of his way. He bought items for the students from the various university bookstores that we visited. After each visit, questions were asked about the university and the items that the bus driver bought were given to the students who answered the questions correctly,” said Corina Mills who is both a MSSH Counselor and a mother of four. “It was a wonderful experience for all of the students and the chaperones. I’ve always told my four sons to make choices that will make them happy and successful in life. The best thing is for students to study away from home where they learn independence, responsibility, and where personal growth is gained.”
The MSSH administration has big plans for the Golden Hawks. This year alone the school took close to 300 juniors to visit the Miami-Dade Wolfson Campus. Next year’s College Road Trip plans include doubling the number of juniors that attend. They also plan on providing additional opportunities for other students by visiting local college fairs.
Principal Smith summed it up best, “In order for our students to perform in the classroom we must awaken within them that thirst for the opportunities that are available to them. This goal is accomplished by having them LIVE the experience.”