After School Matters University Program Offers Teens 10-Week Immersive College Exploration Program

Many teens find the transition from high school to college intimidating. From the possibility of leaving home to the endless choices of classes and career paths, graduating seniors face many stressors during this critical time.

The After School Matters University (ASMU) program worked with over 80 ambitious teenagers this spring. They embarked on a journey of exploration, visiting colleges and universities across the Midwest. During their time with ASMU, students delved into financial literacy with the organizations Ladder Up and Shine Bright. The ASMU program, designed to support young people in college and career preparation, offers teens all-expenses-paid college visits, access to mentors, and a stipend for their participation.

Throughout the 10-week program, high school teens were not just visitors but active participants in the college experience. They explored schools like National Louis University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, UIUC’s Grainger College of Engineering, and Purdue University, gaining firsthand knowledge about admissions, workshops, and campus life. This immersive experience undeniably transformed their horizons and ignited new aspirations, painting a promising future.

After School Matters University program students visit Shine Bright Community Center
After School Matters University program students visit Shine Bright Community Center | Photo courtesy of After School Matters

The Spring session kicked off with a visit to  National Louis University. Teens were welcomed to the downtown Chicago campus and learned about study abroad opportunities, honors programs, and individualized support for students. While touring the campus, teens viewed the Crime Simulation Lab, the STEM Lab, the Digital Media Lab, students’ lounges, and music rooms. 

“I learned that NLU offers many majors and has many supports for its students.” – Amanda T.

Next, participants traveled to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted a student-led panel discussion for ASMU teens, during which they gained valuable insights into the various schools at UW-Madison, explored different career paths, and had the opportunity to ask questions. 

“The highlight of the visit was definitely the food science program where they showed us the chemical reactions on how foods go bad.” – Mariah G.

Next, on their college tour, the teens explored Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) . Faculty and staff led ASMU teens in building bridges, catapults, and gravity-defying structures. Current Engineering students at UIUC took the high schoolers on a tour of the Engineering department, where they saw microelectronic and semiconductor labs, an earthquake simulator, and a weather simulation room. The Grainger College of Engineering offered the ASMU teens a wealth of information about pre-college programs and STEM opportunities for women. 

“A highlight at Urbana was the STEM project where we had to create a bridge using popsicle sticks and see if it can withstand a 5-pound weight.” – Michael O.

After School Matters University Program visit to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
After School Matters University Program visit to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign | Photo courtesy of After School Matters

Lastly, the participants visited  Purdue Universityand toured the Robert L. Ringel Gallery, where they experienced beautiful artwork. Theater students in the Yue-Kong Pao Hall of Visual and Performing Arts program shared details about their costume designs and transforming black boxes for upcoming plays. ASMU participants toured the Black Cultural Center and the Latino Cultural Center, learning about Purdue’s diverse history, available resources, and safe spaces for students of color on campus. 

After School Matters University program teens visit Purdue University
Students participating in After School Matters University Program visit Purdue University | Photo courtesy of After School Matters

“The center where people of color can mingle and make connections [Black Cultural Center], you can [study abroad] and it will be paid for you.” – Hikmat O.

The teens ended their 10-week program session by engaging in financial literacy workshops. They learned essential skills in budgeting, investing, and deciphering financial aid letters alongside Ladder Up and  Shine Bright experts.

How To Help

After School Matters is a nonprofit organization that annually supports up to 19,000 teens across the Chicago area with paid opportunities to develop their talents while gaining critical skills for work, college, and beyond.

Your donation will help After School Matters continue to connect young adults with quality programs to help them reach their full potential.

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