GAINING EARLY AWARENESS AND READINESS FOR UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS (GEAR UP)

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College Campus Visits Sparks Renewed Passion for WWHS Juniors!

With only scattered memories of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the Space Needle in my memory, I, along with my Junior AVID class, ventured to Seattle, Washington for the field trip of a life time. This trip was sponsored and planned by GEAR UP. I was about seven years old the last time I was in Seattle and now I only have vague memories of rain and pine trees. Upon my return to the home of the Super Bowl winning Seahawks, I can see that my vision of miserable weather and doughnuts was very misleading.  When we went to Seattle not only was the sun smiling (which I'm told is rare in Seattle) but every place we went had an enchanted feeling to it.

The Chihuly Glass Museum was perhaps the most enchanted location we visited. Our very first steps off of the Charter bus (that had a very nice driver might I add) led us into a world made of vividly colored glass blown with expert precision into shapes that one can only dream of. Walking through the museum was the equivalent of falling into the rabbit hole in Alice and Wonderland. I, along with my classmates, became entranced by the glass: glass blown to look like flowers, glass blown to look like animals, glass blown to look like specimen from an alien planet. From the moment I got off the Charter bus, I was already in love with this field trip. 

When we arrived at the hotel after a long day of bus riding and Seattle exploring, I could already tell it would be the nicest hotel I’ve stayed at.  I must just say what a pet peeve it is of mine that hotels only have little shampoos and conditioners? Well, the University Inn had hand-pump conditioner, shampoo AND body wash- not hand soap poorly labeled as "face and body soap" (you can't fool me.). The front desk man- Jediah, long time resident of Seattle- was pleased to give me his advice on where the best cafes and shops were, and while we didn't go to a single place he suggested, it was still nice to have his input. In my opinion the only downside to the hotel was that the pool was closed (upon reflection it was a good thing because 6o high school students in a 10 foot wide pool is a recipe for disaster.) Indubitably, my favorite part of the hotel was the coffee, made from a Keurig maker, because how lovely it is to gaze out at a foreign place with a cup of coffee that I didn't pay $4.99 for.

In fact the only out of pocket expense to the students that went on the trip was $10 dollars for the Chihuly Glass Museum. Thanks to GEAR UP, my AVID class and I paid minimally to explore Seattle, stay at a classy hotel and- oh yah!- visit colleges! The most exhilarating and frightening aspect of the trip for me was the college visits! We visited three campuses; University of Washington, Seattle U, and Central Washington University, by the end of the trip I got more exercise than I bargained for.

‘UDUB’ had an exquisitely large campus and a variety of majors to choose from. Our tour guides were very informational and pleasant and I guess they didn't mind all the stairs and steep inclines we walked up, or at least they never seemed to get tired. The tour included a brief class of either CSNE and Drama, or Business and Art. I chose the first. It blows my mind that the technological advances we make everyday that go unnoticed to those outside the CSNE lab. Maybe those milestones would easily identify themselves if I utilized the skills of observation I learned in the Drama class. While the trip to ‘UDUB’ may have ended up opening my eyes to the kind of campus I didn’t want, what it did accomplish was to widen my vision of exploring possible majors that I might be interested in and had not thought about before, and that vision is priceless.

Next we went to Seattle University, a private and religious based college located in the most happening spot in Seattle. My, my, my the things Seattle U has. The general consensus of the class is that Seattle U was the best college we went to for a number of reasons (but I'm only going to tell you my reasons). First; the campus was small with and had mostly simple and tall red brick buildings that would look very quaint through the lens of a camera. Second; though its location is deep in the heart of Seattle, the campus somehow remains quiet and serine. Maybe that's due to the smaller student body, maybe it's because the buildings are so high, who knows. And lastly; every single student we passed was very friendly, well dressed, and quite frankly attractive.

That brings us to CWU our final stop on the field trip of dreams. Many of the AVID students had already been to CWU, however I was not among them. Located in a town similar to Walla Walla, CWU has a quiet campus more spread out than SU, yet much more compact than 'UDUB.' The food was pretty darn good (once again thank you GEAR UP) and our tour guide- Mack- was very informational and interactive. He could also take a Mac-n-Cheese joke pretty well. CWU seemed very close knit by traditions unique to the school. The student body has a real community feel to it, yet people are still independent from one another. I think CWU is a college worth visiting more than once. Also, there are no stairs.

Finally that brings our 2014 AVID field trip to a close. I cannot express my personal gratitude toward GEAR UP for this experience enough, nor can I begin to express the gratitude of my fellow classmates. There are many things that you remember in high school, and this will be one of them for me. Yeah, we got to see cool sights, and buy things, and drink fancy hotel coffee, but at the end of the day everyone on the trip was united by one common goal- to find a college they like and go for it. Whether any of us go to 'UDUB', SU or CWU or not is irrelevant- what matters is the knowledge of what you do want in a college. Seattle was a mystical place for me, and this field trip has given me an understanding of what college really is and why it's essential in this day and age to go to college. Thank you GEAR UP for providing me and my fellow classmates with this phenomenal experience and invaluable knowledge. And I look forward to E-mailing the head of admissions at Seattle University.

-Katrina James is a Walla Walla High School Junior and an AVID student.

Category: WA-HI GEAR UP
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