Twenty-six years ago a Bennion Center student had a brilliant idea. Why don't we invite under-served children, children who may not have ever considered college, to visit the University of Utah? Why don't we help them see that despite poverty, ethnicity, gender, or language barriers, they could not only attend college but flourish there?
That idea spawned a campaign we call Project Youth and a generation later it's still going strong. In fact, the Bennion Center staffer who helps student leaders organize this amazing effort was once one of those students. As a 12-year-old, he sat in the audience and for the first time in his life, thought maybe he belonged here. No one in his family had ever attended college. No one knew about financial aid or how to fill out the forms or who to ask for help. But Bryce Williams believed and all through middle school and high school he made it his dream. And then he made it his reality. A bachelor's degree in social work. A master's degree in educational leadership policy. A job mentoring college students.
This year 950 Title 1 schoolchildren participated in Project Youth. More than 200 student volunteers helped prepare them with special curriculum presented in their schools before the campus visit. And University of Utah faculty and staff re-imagined 25 different college classes to provide these young guests with exciting hands learning opportunities. It takes all of these people and a solid year's worth of planning to make this event a reality. Is it worth the worry and the work? We know for at least one child it made all the difference in the world.
Project Youth Students learn the art of book making at the J. Willard Marriott Library.