On Friday September 28, more than 300 eighth-grade students from Southern Middle School braved the rain to graduate from middle school to college for a day on campus at Somerset Community College (SCC). The event was part of a two-week college exploration experience for all Pulaski County eighth grade students.

Pulaski County eighth-graders observe medical students in training.

On a day when most classes are not in session on SCC’s campus, instructors and staff from all the SCC campuses volunteered their time to meet with students and introduce them to college life. Like SCC students, the eighth-graders followed schedules and moved between buildings for classes. Sample classes for the day included traditional high school subjects like biology, chemistry and English, as well as career-focused classes in medicine, design and technology programs.

A culinary arts class, which included sample desserts, was a favorite among students.  Chefs Michael Wells and Eduardo Nazario blended demonstrations of cooking techniques and academic information into their presentation. The class calculated food costs for an event, planned a meal and discussed career options in culinary arts. Culinary arts is a new addition to SCC program offerings and is based at the McCreary satellite campus.

Chef Michael Wells challenges students to stay sharp in math.

Reflecting on the day, both teacher Regina Bell and student Addie Jones said their favorite part was the tour of the computer aided drafting and design lab with instructor Eric Wooldridge. There, students learned about using computer software to create materials, invent new products and design buildings.

The day on campus was a partnership between GEAR UP, Somerset Community College and Pulaski County Schools. GEAR UP is a grant program sponsored by Berea College that works with 19 Kentucky school districts to help students succeed in school and prepare for college and their careers.  GEAR UP Service Coordinator Robin Choate explained “college and career related experiences are important for students because they help connect school work to life outside of the classroom.”

For more information about Berea College’s GEAR UP programs, visit http://www.berea.edu/esp/programs/.