Success Conference opens campus to 8th grade leaders
By LAUREN BECK
In an effort to strengthen ties between the Notre Dame and South Bend community, student government hosted 170 local eighth graders on Wednesday.
Students from five area schools participated in Notre Dame's First Annual Keys to Success Conference, a workshop designed to offer younger students an opportunity to interact with college students.
"Students here expressed an interest in reaching out to the community and making younger students feel more a part of Notre Dame," said student body vice president Brooke Norton. "Our goal is to welcome them into our community and to share our knowledge with them but also to learn from them."
The program focused on developing academic and leadership skills by allowing eighth graders to vocalize their opinions and to reflect on the college students' experiences.
The day began with small groups of eighth graders discussing academic success, leadership, communication and peer pressure.
Notre Dame students learned as much from the eighth graders as the eighth graders learned from the Notre Dame students, according to Group Leader Carolina Reams.
"I found it interesting to hear the kids' perspectives," she said. "I feel nervous for them because high school and the issues it presents can be tough to deal with — they seemed very intelligent and knew what they wanted to do with their lives."
Following a panel of college and local high school students, the eighth graders wrote letters summarizing the program's values and how they planned to apply them later in life.
The letters were collected and will be returned to eighth graders at the end of the school year.
"The workshop taught me ways to avoid drugs and alcohol. We discussed choosing positive role models and planning for college and careers," said Zach Marks, an eighth grader at Clay Middle School. "These are not big issues for me now, but they will be in the future."
Sophomore Son Nguyen who coordinated Keys to Success hopes the lessons the students learned Wednesday will not be quickly forgotten.
He plans to implement more interaction between Notre Dame and the middle schoolers in the future to reinforce the values of the conference.
"It's hard to reach kids in just one day," Nguyen said. "We're trying to institute an after-school program in which we visit with the students or tutor them."
Lanina Cobb-Thompson, a counselor at Dickinson Middle School, said the workshop and further interaction will benefit the students greatly.
"I believe the students will return to the classroom with knowledge of how to interact with people with whom they're not familiar and discuss your differences," she said.
Most participants from Notre Dame and the middle schools found the Keys to Success Program worthwhile.
"I learned to set my goals high," Edison student James Douglas said. "And to never stop trying to achieve them."
All News Stories for Thursday, February 8, 2001