After School Matters University: Building A Path to College and Beyond

This spring, we were thrilled to see more than 80 ambitious teens participate in our After School Matters University (ASMU) program. They embarked on a journey of exploration, visiting colleges and universities across the Midwest and delving into the world of financial literacy with the organization Ladder Up and Shine Bright. The ASMU program, designed to support young people in their college and career preparation, offers teens all-expenses-paid college visits, access to mentors, and a stipend for their participation.

Throughout the 10-week program, high school teens were not just visitors but active participants in the college experience. They explored schools like National Louis University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Grainger College of Engineering, and Purdue University, gaining firsthand knowledge about admissions, workshops, and campus life. This immersive experience has undeniably transformed their horizons and ignited new aspirations, painting a promising future.

The Spring session kicked off with a visit to National Louis University. Teens were welcomed to the downtown Chicago campus and learned about study abroad opportunities, honors programs, and individualized support for students. While touring the campus, teens viewed the Crime Simulation Lab, the STEM Lab, the Digital Media Lab, students ‘ lounges, and music rooms. 

“I learned that NLU offers many majors and has many supports for its students.” – Amanda T.

Next, participants traveled to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted a student-led panel discussion for ASMU teens, during which they gained valuable insights into the various schools at UW-Madison, explored different career paths, and had the opportunity to ask questions. 

“The highlight of the visit was definitely the food science program where they showed us the chemical reactions on how foods go bad.” – Mariah G.

The teens explored Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) on the following college tour. Faculty and staff led ASMU teens in building bridges, catapults, and gravity-defying structures. Current Engineering students at UIUC led the high schoolers on a tour of the Engineering department, where they saw microelectronic and semiconductor labs, an earthquake simulator, and a weather simulation room. The Grainger College of Engineering offered our teens a wealth of information about pre-college programs and STEM opportunities for women. 

“A highlight at Urbana was the STEM project where we had to create a bridge using popsicle sticks and see if it can withstand a 5-pound weight.” – Michael O.

Lastly, the participants visited Purdue University and toured the Robert L. Ringel Gallery, where they experienced beautiful artwork. Theater students in the Yue-Kong Pao Hall of Visual and Performing Arts program shared details about their costume designs and transforming black boxes for upcoming plays. ASMU participants toured the Black Cultural Center and the Latino Cultural Center, learning about Purdue’s diverse history, available resources, and safe spaces for students of color on campus. 

“The center where people of color can mingle and make connections [Black Cultural Center], you can [study abroad] and it will be paid for you.” – Hikmat O.

Teens ended their 10-week program session engaged in financial literacy workshops, learning essential skills in budgeting, investing, and deciphering financial aid letters alongside Ladder Up and Shine Bright experts.

We are grateful to everyone who played a role in making this 10-week immersive college experience a reality for our teens. Your support and belief in our mission are vital, and we are truly grateful for your dedication to our young people.