High School Students Become College Students for a Day

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday April 24, 2007

About 250 UC Berkeley students were shadowed last Thursday, but it was all for a good cause. 

The Berkeley YWCA 17th Annual Shadow Day saw 250 high school students from Oakland, Richmond, Emeryville, and El Cerrito get paired up with Cal students to experience a day in the life of a college student. 

“These kids are not academically ‘college-tracked’ and are under-represented in the UC System,” said Jenny DeRuntz, who coordinates the program at the UC Berkeley YWCA campus. “Our aim is to bring high school students from the East Bay to a college campus and give them an opportunity to see what college could provide them with.” 

DeRuntz said that applications were received from both Cal as well as high school students. 

“We match them according to a variety of factors,” she said. “It can range from general interests, hobbies, majors and genders. We try our best to match by ethnicity, but that doesn’t always happen. It’s also important that their schedules match because each Cal student has class at different times.” 

Sponsors for the event included YWCA Berkeley, UC Berkeley and the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). 

Students check in as early as 8 a.m.—a time DeRuntz referred to as “slightly chaotic.” 

“Close to 500 students have to find their match. So there is a lot of running around and talking while people look for name tags,” she said. “Once morning registration, shadow pick-up and breakfast are over, the high school students leave with their mentors to go to class or participate in other activities. Then they have lunch at Crossroads, which is followed by a UC Berkeley/Community College Admissions discussion at the YWCA. Once that’s over, it’s pretty much an open schedule until it’s time to leave at 3.30 p.m.” 

High school students also get college material and “Shadow Day” T-shirts. According to DeRuntz, 90 percent of the applications are from Oakland. 

“We don’t bring in Berkeley students as they already get a lot of opportunities,” she said. ‘It’s often the Oakland and Contra Costa communities that don’t get much attention.” 

The YWCA student volunteer board—a group of 23 UC Berkeley students—also helps organize the event. 

“Cal students want to do it because they want to share their experiences with these kids,” said Sharon Ma, a student volunteer. “We want to encourage students to look at the future and show them that college is a viable option.” 

Ma, who mentored students in November, said she had been able to relate to her shadow mentees in a lot of ways. 

“We were both from the Bay Area and there was a lot we could talk about,” she said. “Kids are curious about how college works, about how our schedules differ and about extra-curricular activities. They want to know about our majors, study abroad and funding for college. We in turn get to learn from them and make new friends. It’s a rewarding experience for both.” 

When the students are not sitting with their mentors in class, they are taken for a tour of the Campanile, Memorial Stadium and Telegraph Avenue. 

“They even go into the classrooms, the dorms and the frats. They come here in the morning really shy and at the end of the day they have this new-found energy,” said DeRuntz. “We are really trying to promote higher education. Not everybody can get into Cal, but we can at least try.” 

DeRuntz said that there have been students from McClymonds High School in Oakland who have been admitted to UC Berkeley in the past. 

“We have received excellent feedback from high school counselors who have said that this event has motivated students tremendously and has helped improve grades,” she said. “The kids understand that we are just like them and that they too can go to college. It’s definitely a rewarding experience for everyone.”