For 15 years University College (UC) carried forward the dream of an SU student who initiated a program as a project in her leadership class. Shadow Day, founded in 1998, was the brainchild of Kamika Dunlap ’99. It fosters community building, service and outreach by bringing fifth-grade students from Seymour Dual Language Academy to SU’s campus to discover and understand the opportunities available to them if they successfully complete high school.
Shadow Day celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. The first year brought 10 students to campus to “shadow” SU students for the day. This year, more than 60 fifth-grade students will be hosted by 35 SU students from fraternities, sororities and various student organizations. The day begins with breakfast at the Chancellor’s residence, followed by attending a class, touring the campus and having lunch in the student center.
At the end of the school day, the students are given a tour of the Carrier Dome, where they are greeted by SU’s mascot, Otto the Orange. The students also listen to various speakers who represent educational programs that are in place to support them in their educational journey.
UC Dean Bea González has been part of the mentorship program since its first year. “Shadow Day is very special to me because I attended Seymour School as a child,” González says. “The program has evolved over the years with an increase in the number of students we bring to campus and the involvement of more and more student groups. The SU students have such a positive experience, and many of them participate throughout their college career.”
González, a former member of the Syracuse City School District Board as well as a former member of the City of Syracuse Common Council, knows first hand the need for positive role models for city school children. “It’s about giving the Seymour students the opportunity to see themselves as college students,” she says. “When the fifth-grade students are paired with SU students who share the same culture and, perhaps, the same upbringing, they can identify with them. And the SU student can share the message of working hard and never giving up.”
González says that there are a lot of programs in place to help children succeed, and SU does a wonderful job partnering with the school district to provide the necessary support and services aimed at dramatically increasing high school graduation rates. “It’s important to interact with the students at an early age and make them aware of the systems in place to help them succeed,” González says. “Ninth grade is the year when the most students are likely to drop out. If we can connect with them before that critical year, hopefully, we can make a positive difference.”
University College underwrites the entire program and receives donations of school supplies from the SU Bookstore, a longtime partner. Partnership for Better Education, the Office of Alumni Relations, and the Office of Admissions also generously donate supplies.