FIU, McDonald’s partner, welcome ‘Future Class of 2019’

The path toward higher education became a bit clearer for some 100 8th-graders from José Martí and Palm Springs middle schools on May 18 as they toured FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus. The young visitors were treated to presentations by alumnus Cedric McMinn ’01, a.k.a. Mr. FIU, as well as members of Undergraduate Admissions, Upward Bound and Pre-College Programs and the Campus Life Peer Advisors.

The kids’ visit was the culmination of a yearlong outreach partnership between FIU and McDonald’s No Excuses University initiative. FIU was one of only two universities in the United States selected to participate in the pilot program supporting higher education opportunities for Hispanic students.

Since last summer, the university has worked with teachers and students from José Martí and Palm Springs, preparing and educating students on the steps they will have to take as they enter high school to continue successfully on to college and beyond.

FIU has organized pep rallies to get them excited about higher education, hosted some 400 middle-schoolers at football games on campus and provided gear throughout the year.

On May 17, both middle schools hosted a college fair and information sessions for parents and students to learn more about FIU admissions and financial aid. Fifty top performers from each school were selected to come on campus for the College Experience Day on May 18.

“What do you want to do?” asked McMinn, an FIU liberal studies graduate, as he began his talk in the MARC Pavilion. “Because of my experience at FIU I am the person that I am today.”

As photos of world-famous college graduates flashed on a screen, McMinn, a government relations specialist, urged the group to think about college. “No matter who you want to be like – Oprah, Mike Lowell, the president – you have to go to college,” he said. “You gotta claim it.”

After the welcome ceremony, the students broke into groups and spread out across MMC to get a better sense of life on campus. Some admired the sculptures outside the Frost Art Museum and toured the exhibits within it, while others headed to the College of Nursing & Health Sciences where the college’s director of Student Services Barbara Anderson and current nursing students led them through the simulation lab.

Another group headed to the campus’ Nature Preserve and butterfly garden, while another got a science tutorial courtesy of Palmer Graves, associate chair of the Department of Chemistry.

“The kids loved their visit – they really, really loved it,” said Ivette Diaz Rubio, José Martí’s assistant principal. “They are motivated and excited and looking at high school differently. They see how much fun college can be and how much they can learn.

“I can guarantee that at least 10-15 of them will be joining you in the future. Good job, FIU!”

The “Future Class of 2019” ended its day in the same way many Panthers end their college years at FIU: with a group photo in front of the Graham Center.