Summer program for high school students aims to increase cultural understanding

Rebecca Smith and Tim Evans watch as Virginia Siegel instructs the Dress to Express class on the first day. Rebekah Alvey/Herald

Rebekah Alvey

High school students from surrounding counties are flocking to WKU for an educational summer program that is aimed at preparing them for college. 

Upward Bound is a federal TRiO program that brings current high school students to WKU’s campus for different classes. Rebecca Smith, academic coordinator for educational talent search, said Upward Bound helps students get access and support through college. 

The program reaches out to students in 11 surrounding counties. The students are rising sophomores to seniors in high school. 

With the program, students live in dorms on campus and take college level courses from Jun. 4 to July 7. Smith said students become more familiar with WKU and the college environment through the program. 

A new extra credit class being offered and led by Smith is Dress to Express:Cultural and Individual identity Expressed Through Clothing. It partners with faculty from the folk studies and anthropology department. 

Smith said the class offers an aspect of diversity by celebrating and studying expressions of culture through clothing and body decoration.

In addition to studying current types of clothing and style, Smith said they would take a more critical eye to past trends and relating them to historical events.Timothy Evans, associate professor of folk studies and anthropology, said they would also study how people express different events or occasions like religious practices. 

“Clothing is something we take for granted,” Virginia Siegel, a folklife specialist in the department of folklife and anthropology, said. “This class will provide an opportunity to take a new look at it.”

Smith said the opportunity for high school students to learn about diversity in Bowling Green is especially important. She said there is a lot of diversity in the city that may not be present in the high schools students attend. 

Evans said the class would also study the artfulness of daily life in general, which is relatable to students. By starting with something simple like what you put on this morning, Smith said it makes a conversation of diversity easier.

“When you make it an appreciation and not a judgment of culture, then you are facilitating growth and understanding of the community,” Smith said. 

In addition to immersing students in a college atmosphere, Siegel said they build useful skills such as working in a team and budgeting. Siegel said the class starts a discussion of diversity among students which makes them more prepared for the diversity they may encounter in college. 

Evans said Upward Bound and the class specifically teaches critical thinking, especially about the world around you which can also help in their time at a university. 

The class will also collaborate with members of the university and community such as the WKU theatre department. Smith said because students are close and comfortable with WKU they are more likely to attend the university.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].