College visits a priority for Culver students


Exploring possibilities through college visits

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Culver sixth-graders pose on the 50-yard line at Autzen Stadium during their Nov. 14 tour of the University of Oregon in Eugene.Since Culver School District made college visitations a priority in 2009, it has tripled the number of its students enrolling in college.

“In the spring of 2009, we had approximately 17 percent of our kids going on to higher education. In the spring of 2013, we had 53 percent who went on to higher education,” said Culver Superintendent Stefanie Garber.

“Four years ago, we started a program in which all students, fifth grade and up, go to a college visitation each year,” Garber said, noting Culver Middle School Principal Brad Kudlac coordinates the middle school visits, while Kurt Davis organizes the high school visits.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Culver students walk around the campus on a college visitation at Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande.The Culver District feels strongly enough about the program, that it budgets $15,000 per year to fund the trips, which range in distance from Ashland to LaGrande to Portland.

At the middle school, Kudlac said the eighth-graders had already been to Southern Oregon University, the seventh-graders had seen Eastern Oregon University, and on Nov. 14, the sixth-grade classes visited the University of Oregon.

This year for the first time, students were able to attend college sporting events in which Culver High School graduates were playing.

“I served as an assistant football coach at EOU, and during my college days played at SOU, so both colleges opened their doors and welcomed our students like no other, and it was a great experience for our students,” Kudlac said.

He said in the fifth grade, teachers lead field trips to Oregon State University, while he leads the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade trips.

“We had such a low rate of students going to college, and wanted to expose them to higher education as much as we could. With the college visits, it becomes ingrained in them and increases their awareness of college and trade school,” Kudlac said.

“It hammers down the fact that the work they’re doing now does matter. And that they need to be committed to preparing for their future,” he said, adding, “When I came here, we were the second worst county in the percentage of kids going to college. We’ve improved a ton and I want to continue on that path.”

At CHS, Kurt Davis has been leading college tours for three years. “Last year, we visited 17 campuses and we’ve been to almost every school in Oregon now,” he said.

Davis retired from the district once, and now works part time as the School-To-Work coordinator. “He is such a gift to our district and is changing the lives of our students by getting them to college, increasing their dream, and showing them what is possible. He has built amazing relationships with the colleges,” Garber noted.

Before retiring, Davis was the health occupations coordinator, who took students to see health-related careers in action at the Redmond hospital. That was expanded to include all occupations, which led to trips to Les Schwab, Keith Manufacturing, the Nike campus, engineering conferences, criminal justice seminars and more.

Now, he said, “I help kids identify what they want to do after high school and look at which colleges provide an education for those areas. A lot of them are first-generation college kids and their families don’t understand what it takes to get into college,” Davis said.

The main thing is to get students on a college campus to get them thinking seriously about it, he said. This year, CHS students have visited the UofO, EOU, Blue Mountain Community College, COCC, and will be traveling to OSU, Western Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, and Mount Hood, Chemeketa, and Portland community colleges.

Anywhere from 10 to 15 students go at a time and Davis drives the van. To give them a feel for the campus, he said, “We stay in the dorm and eat at the cafeteria. You can’t find out what a college is like by reading a pamphlet or reading about it online. You need to go to the campus and talk to the students and the people.”

Those making the trips need to be good enough students to be serious about looking for a college. “It’s not just a free day off,” Davis noted.

If a student decides to enroll in a college, Davis sticks with them, helping them fill out admission and financial aid forms, and walking them through the process.

“We have a little session on how to survive college that helps them with managing time and other issues,” Davis said.

Even after they are in college, Davis continues to help. “I stay in contact with them once they’re there. That’s an area where schools fail a lot of times. They graduate them, then send them off without help,” he observed.

Because of all the trips, Davis has developed connections with people at every school. “Now, I can pick up the phone and talk to a financial aid person I know and help a kid out,” he said.

“It’s pretty gratifying to me, and I really enjoy it because it makes a big difference,” Davis said of Culver’s college visitation program.