26 young African American men between the ages of 14 and 17 visited the campus of Purdue University Fort Wayne for a summer program designed to help them take what may be their first major steps toward a college education.

The three-day, two-night opportunity was called the Purdue University Fort Wayne College Experience. It was a collaboration between the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Bloom Project, a nonprofit organization helping young men of color between the ages of 12 and 18 in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne with career and college readiness. The 2021 experience was made possible through a grant from the Foellinger Foundation.

Activities offered an immersive glimpse of college life including tours, class time, social activities, and a campus fair. Participants stayed in campus housing to help them feel what it is like to be a college student.

This type of hands-on approach to learning has been shown to better engage young minds by making them part of the process.

“We were excited to host these students on our campus; I remember walking a mile in their shoes and attending similar opportunities which led me to enroll and graduate from my hometown university,” said MarTeze Hammonds, chief diversity officer, Purdue University Fort Wayne. “Programs like these are very important to the growth of the individual and to the growth and retention of diversity at Purdue Fort Wayne. We hope this experience will inspire these young men to consider becoming Mastodons.”

Of particular focus during this year’s experience was providing class time with faculty who specialize in STEM and business leadership in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science, and the Doermer School of Business, respectively.

The college fair included representatives of several areas including admissions, financial aid, student housing, student life and leadership, career development, study abroad, the fitness center, the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and human resources.

Each experience was intended to help fulfill Project Bloom’s commitment to help young men of color become part of the solution to societal problems through impactful actions, focused instruction, and serving others.

Ultimately, program organizers wanted participants to envision themselves on a college campus with a strong desire to pursue and achieve a post-secondary education.

The Waynedale News Staff
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