On Monday, December 4th, three members of the Overbrook Promise Corps team, our site supervisor, and the school counselor took thirty seniors and two juniors to Millersville University for a college tour. The morning was brisk as a bitter fog took over the landscape surrounding Overbrook High School. With a two-hour bus ride ahead of us, the mood was serene as we groggily boarded the school bus and departed on our journey. Some students slept peacefully to the hum of the diesel engine, while others watched the city fade into the distance as we weaved through traffic into the more open land of manure and rolling fields. For some students, adventures west out of Philadelphia are the best moments for them to reflect on their experiences within the city. As we passed the secluded homes that sit comfortably on acres of land, students openly questioned how their home-environments could be so vastly different. West Philadelphia’s trees lost their appeal as we passed miles of open pasture, which prompted one student to claim, “…they don’t have any trash around here!” Eventually, the allure of the farmland was diluted by the primal need for a bathroom. As the universal need for a restroom finally peaked, we arrived at the admissions office of Millersville University.
After getting situated in Lyle Hall, a more relaxed platoon of Promise Corps members and Overbook High School students got seated for an admissions video and question session. The students were engaged and confident with their questioning, strongly demonstrating their preparedness and abilities. One student, who, perhaps recognizing a trend in the video questioned, “How diverse is the school?” The admissions officer cited a 17% diversity rate and provided the students with reassuring anecdotes of her own experiences at the university as a member of a minority group. The questions soon faded, and the urge to see the ins and outs of the campus was eventually satiated.
The group was split in thirds and we began our walk. The air of Millersville University had subtle hints of manure and the local pond. This deviation from the congestion of Philadelphia was welcomed by some, and too-foreign for others. As the walk progressed, we were introduced to many of the local campus eateries, classrooms, athletic arenas, and best of all – the dormitories. We were brought into the East Village, a complex of premier suite-style dorms that the students were shown around. Many were quite shocked to see the size of the classic college-dorm-twin-bed, but some saw many potential perks of the rooms. One student told me with excitement, “I could totally see myself cutting hair right in the middle where the mirror’s at!” as we stood in front of the also classic college suite-hallway-sink-with-mirror. Hearing their enthusiasm about having the chance to live in this pristine residence hall was just one of the many heartwarming moments that I was blessed to receive that day.
After vacating the dorms, we made our way to our final stop: Gordinier Hall. The dining hall, dubbed the “Upper Deck,” was adequately prepared for the appetites that made entry. The buffet style eatery had the staples of college dining; a made-to-order burger station, followed by sandwich and salad stations, a wok with a personal chef, a dessert station, and of course substantial amounts of pepperoni pizza. As we were eating, I noticed one of my students sitting with a group of three Millersville students, casually eating and joking around. As we left the dining hall, I asked him if he knew the people that he was sitting with. In his happiest voice he boasted, “Of course Coach – that’s Chris! I wrestled with him last year at Regions, he’s the man! He goes here now.” It is conversations like these, and like the ones in the dorm room hallway, that leave me in awe of the kind of power that the smallest interactions or most taken-for-granted things have on us.
As we walked to the bus, we passed by the Marauder statue that was covered in pennies placed by passing Millersville students. Some students stood and looked at the statue. A few questioned why people would leave their money on a statue. Others added to the tradition.
Hopes for admission to the university were high as we boarded the bus. Meetings were held between the OHS school counselor and admissions personnel, and 2 students were granted admission pending a completed application! A big shout out to CCA Ashley Bell who spearheaded the trip and conducted the operations seamlessly and the Overbrook Alumni Association, who paid for everyone to eat in the dining hall. Also a big thank you to Millersville University, and all that made the trip possible.
– Fred Cacace, College and Career Ambassador at Overbrook High School