The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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SPARC’s Youth Tours motivates students

The service-oriented organization SPARC sponsors Youth Tours every Thursday and Friday at SMU.

Founded in Spring 2006, Youth Tours is a volunteer-run tour for underprivileged children from surrounding elementary schools who visit SMU.

The organization has hosted 24 schools and gives about 15 tours each semester. Each tour guide has 10 to 15 children and one adult chaperone from the visiting school.

Erica Ramirez, director of Youth Tours, said “The goal is to motivate students to begin thinking about their own college experiences and get them excited about college.”

There are currently about 30 tour guides, but any SMU student can volunteer to be a guide. In order to become a tour guide, it is necessary to send in an application, attend bi-weekly meetings, and go through an orientation process.

Youth Tours held a training session on Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. The volunteers were informed of the rules and dress code for the tours. They were also given a script of items to point out along the way and during the tours. Ramirez stressed the importance of interacting with the children. She says the tours are casual and should be fun for the guides as well as the children.

The volunteers then went through a mock tour. They traveled to all the buildings on campus. Experienced tour guides gave advice and described what they normally would say at each location.

Melanie Vettiman, a tour guide since last semester, said that she acquired many ideas from other people about how to improve her tours. “I’m a little uncomfortable around little kids so I got good ideas on how the other guides talk to them,” she says.

Ramirez said that discussing the traditions of SMU is important because it shows the children that college is more than just studying. She said the children’s favorite part of the tour is usually the seal at Dallas Hall and the myth that no one will graduate if they walk over it.

Ramirez said she loves to give tours because she loves children. She added, “It’s fun to give back to the community and be a role model to the kids who don’t necessarily have role models at home with a college degree.”

Jim Cunningham is a principal in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District and attended a tour last semester. He visited with fourth and fifth graders from Furneuax Elementary. He says the reason he chose to visit SMU was because his students had visited the Meadows Art Museum and he wanted to introduce them to a college campus.

He said, “These students come to us with limited experiences or knowledge of college. By taking them to a college, we plant the seed for their future.”

Ramirez said one of the goals of the tours is to encourage the students to do well in school now to help prepare them for future education.

Since the children visiting on the tours are from low-income areas, Ramirez said it is important to point out that the majority of SMU students are on some form of financial assistance. She said letting the children know there are many options, such as grants and scholarships, helps them understand they have the opportunity to attend college even if they’re going through financial hardships.

Cunningham said his experience with the Youth Tours was very positive for his students as well as their parents. “They got to visually connect with school at the next level beyond high school. They now understand how going to school beyond high school can result in better jobs with higher paying salaries.”

“We really got a lot out of our visit, and I’m sure these students will never forget coming to SMU,” he said. “The guides were positive and informative, and great ambassadors for SMU. I was proud to bring my students.” He added that he will definitely be returning for more tours.

The tours will begin in March and continue until the end of the semester.

“The best part about being a tour guide is being able to inspire kids and influence their lives,” said Ramirez.

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