UH-Manoa freshmen Ashley Pallas, center with lei, and Maile Ben-Dor, two of 72 college mentors to Dole Middle School sixth-graders, posed yesterday with some of the students.

Freshmen enlisted
to sell kids on college

Dole Middle School sixth-grader Sid Cosido knows he has a lot to look forward to if he goes to college.

Thanks to a recent trip to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, he got a glimpse of college -- and it wasn't just about studying and tests and finding your classroom.

"They have a dorm, and they get to stay with their friends every day," Cosido said with a grin. "And they have Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and it's all right there, you don't have to walk real far.

"They had the shuttle bus. That was cool. It had air conditioning inside. It was lots of fun."

Cosido's trip to campus was one of the activities organized by the Century Program of the Foundation for Excellent Schools, a national educational program that introduces public school students to college life by pairing them with college freshmen.

Yesterday, officials announced that 12 Hawaii public schools, including three from neighbor islands, would be participating in the mentoring program during the next several years.

"I'm from Kauai, and a lot of people there don't go to college. They say, 'Life is good, I'll just stay here, surf,'" said mentor Maile Ben-Dor, a UH freshman. "You thought of college, and you think it's going to be so hard. ... I think it's just good that the kids got to see that normal people go to college."

Mentor Ashley Pallas, also a UH freshman, said that one boy on the tour exclaimed, "I only like video games. I don't like school."

"So I told him about the graphics design program and how maybe one day he could design games, and he said, 'And I'd get paid for that?'"

Dole was the first school to kick off the program, while others are still setting up partnerships with colleges. School officials said they selected 60 students on a variety of criteria but focused on those who would be the first member of their family to obtain higher education should they go to college.

"It's almost like a status symbol to be in this program," said Pam Kino, a Dole sixth-grade counselor. "The students are so enthusiastic. It's just helping to raise general awareness in them, that 'yes, I have to think of life beyond high school.'"

Public schools participating were chosen by need and by school officials' desire to join the program.

Besides the campus tour, mentors also tutored students and helped them with admission and financial aid information.

Dr. Ray McNulty, co-director of the Century Program in Hawaii, said he is hoping the program will help students expect more from themselves and help schools better prepare them for the future.

"It's about changing the expectations of our public schools ... for each and every child in our schools," McNulty said. "Those expectations are that they all graduate ready for college. It doesn't mean they have to go to college, but that they're ready to go."

Hawaii joins 13 other states and more than 55 schools across the nation in the Century Program, which is funded with local and federal money. Local organizations providing funds include First Hawaiian Bank, Kamehameha Schools, American Savings Bank, Bank of Hawaii, Samuel N. & Mary Castle Foundation, James & Abigail Campbell Foundation, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and Atherton Family Foundation.

The Century Program

3 islands take part

The Century Program of the Foundation for Excellent Schools, a national program that introduces public school students to college life, will include the following isle schools in its program:

>> Dole Middle, Kapolei High, Farrington High, Puohala Elementary, King Intermediate, Castle High, Kailua Intermediate, Kailua High, Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate, Kapaa High on Kauai, and Waiakea and Hilo high schools on the Big Island.

>> Participating colleges and universities include the University of Hawaii at Manoa and at Hilo, Chaminade University, Hawaii Pacific University, Kapiolani Community College, Windward Community College, Leeward Community College and Kauai Community College.

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