Ulrich Recital Hall buzzed with anticipation.
College students chatted animatedly with their high school buddies as attendees milled into the room and took their seats.
Northwestern High School students gathered in the recital hall Wednesday to present their semester-long projects in front of their peers, their families and the university students in attendance. The projects ranged from a sketch about stereotypes in music genres to original songs about rape.
A recurring theme throughout “Seeing is Believing” is that those involved in the university community are not aware of the surrounding area.
Carly Finkelstein, an English teacher at Northwestern, said the high school students gain from this experience in two main ways.
“First, they have the chance to explore issues about which they care deeply with their peers in a safe environment,” she said. “Second, they create meaningful relationships with college mentors. This helps to solidify their desire to go to college by making college seem more accessible. If all types of students with a variety of backgrounds and interests can go to college, then they can, too.”
Justin Lohr, professor of Writing for Change, said the relationships between universities and local communities are often centered around the school.
“Our approach is the idea of the university helping the community,” Lohr said. “We want to use the expertise of people in the university to help groups in the community acknowledge and understand their own expertise [so they can] develop into the capacity to effect change.”
Olivia Wallick, a sophomore education major, said it’s important for university students to realize what kind of community they live in.
“[Northwestern] is literally five minutes away and people don’t know it’s there,” Wallick said. “UMD is a microcosm – you don’t really get the experience of the community even though you’re living in it.”
For Jonathan Palmer, a Northwestern student who participated in the sketch about stereotypes in music, the experience opened his eyes to a lot of problems he would not have otherwise noticed.
“It made me look at things from [the perspective of] people who are being bullied because of their stereotype or who they are,” Palmer said. “The hardest part was looking at things from other people’s point of view.”
Other students benefited from the experience in different ways.
Chloe Steck, whose group sang an original song, said she enjoyed getting to know her college friend and learning more about cultural conflict.
“The most beneficial part for me was really getting to research and learn all the facts about what my group talked about, which was rape in America,” Steck said. “I think just finding out more about that was really good.”
Marlene Esparza said “Seeing is Believing” helped her and her peers show that their generation is knowledgeable about current events.
“The most beneficial part of this was getting to express our political views and to show that we actually care,” she said. “Our generation actually knows what’s going on. We’re not unaware; we actually do care.”
Community member Janice McAllister of Bowie said she thought the performances were excellent and she’d buy the DVD to share the students’ powerful messages with her friends.
“I think that this type of experience for all involved is extremely beneficial in that everyone’s voice is heard,” McAllister said.
“Quite often in our communities we’re unaware of what the person next door is experiencing or what their culture is like,” she said. “This type of opportunity where the university comes alongside the students in a high school setting, it really taps into the awesome experience of just knowing who’s next door.”
Maya Pottiger is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.