Menomonie, Wis. — As Tamara Brantmeier looked out at approximately 40 faces, she saw limitless possibilities.
The young people, middle school and high school students, were at University of Wisconsin-Stout for a summer PreCollege program, a chance to see what college life is like and to start thinking about if, how and where they could go to college.
Brantmeier, an art professor, was there to talk about UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design majors. She inspired them with stories about graduates who have gone on to successful careers as illustrators, studio artists and designers.
She explained that, contrary to what most students believe, they didn’t have to be great at drawing to enroll in an art or design major at UW-Stout. “We’ll teach you to draw,” she said.
Brantmeier also sought to inspire them, beyond career choices, as young people who need to believe in and be true to themselves, no matter their background, to be successful.
The students represented a cross-section of Wisconsin society from urban to rural and ethnically diverse: African-American, Native American, Asian, Latino and white. She encouraged them to embrace their differences and unique experiences.
“When you are authentically who you are, you will find success. I promise you that,” said Brantmeier, who told them that she was a first-generation college student — like many of them could be.
UW-Stout held three, weeklong PreCollege programs for 81 students during two weeks in July. Students who qualified for a state Department of Public Instruction scholarship attended for free. Attendees came from around Wisconsin, including the Madison and Milwaukee areas.
The PreCollege program Design Your Future focused on graphic design for 10th- and 11th-graders; Masterpiece of Life focused on studio art; and Stout Proud focused on STEM fields and leadership for eighth- and ninth-graders.
Program participants lived like college students during the week, rooming in residence halls and eating at campus cafeterias. Along with classroom and lab instruction, they heard motivational speakers, enjoyed recreational activities together and took a field trip to Minneapolis to see either a play or tour the Walker Art Center.
Bailey Fear, of Hayward, wants to be a computer engineer so he enjoyed the science and math classes he took. He also enjoyed being able to experience life as a college student. “I learned how close the campus buildings are and how active you can be as a student.”
One student said the experience — she made new friends and learned geometry and how to program a calculator — was one of the best of her life.
A group of UW-Stout students worked as camp counselors during the three programs. One of them was Cyan Bower, of La Crosse, a junior majoring in human development and family studies.
“We want them to see the whole college experience and get them to work together, which is what college is like,” Bower said. “At first, nobody talked with each other. Now, everybody is talking with each other. They leave here with a lot of confidence and a lot of new friends.”
The PreCollege programs are directed by Vickie Sanchez of UW-Stout’s Multicultural Student Services. For more information, go to www.uwstout.edu/services/multicultural/pre-college.cfm.