ALMA — Alma College faculty, staff and students are again partnering with Alma Public Schools on a program designed to give middle-schoolers a taste of college life.

The Alma Enrichment Partnership Program, which first took place in fall 2022 and focused on science, has returned for the winter term. This time, 27 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students from Donald L. Pavlik Middle School will come to Alma College’s campus over the next six weeks for sessions focused on art and design and knowledge and persuasion.

“We were incredibly pleased by what we saw from the Alma Enrichment Partnership Program: Science programming in the fall, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity bring it back to a new group of students, in a completely different realm of academics,” said Brian Hancock, an assistant professor of teacher education at Alma College and head organizer of the Partnership Program.

“Continuing to grow this program in partnership with the school district is a wonderful opportunity to make the most of our resources and proximity to each other.”

Beginning in early February and continuing through late March, students will be dropped off to Alma College for 90 minutes of morning lessons before being taken back to school. This time, there are two different groups. Students in the art and design group will learn about topics such as architecture and game character design, while students in the knowledge and persuasion group will dive into rhetoric and human psychology.

“This is exciting for us, as a college, to showcase our commitment to an interdisciplinary education — giving students a well-rounded set of skills that they can take with them into high school and college,” said Sheryle Dixon, an assistant professor of philosophy, who is teaching basic foundational art concepts. “All too often, we hear about how the arts suffer at the expense of other subjects in public education. This is a chance to reach students and show them that their art skills are valued and worthwhile.”

The Alma Enrichment Partnership Program: Science was a big hit as an inaugural development, said middle school principal Jennifer Huntoon. Seventeen students from the middle school participated, learning about topics ranging from biology to physics to physiology, and using equipment that the local public school district doesn’t have available to them.

Huntoon recalled one student who performed well academically, but struggled initially with the social element of being on a college campus. That changed quickly as the student advanced through the program, she said.

“At first, this student was very shy and quiet. I think they felt intimidated about being in a new place, surrounded by new people — which is common for any young person who is trying something new,” Huntoon said. “Before long, though, every time I saw them in the hallway, I could tell that they wanted to make eye contact with me, and tell me about what they learned that day.

“I think they gained confidence from trying something new and succeeding. It’s a critical part of development and something they will carry with them for a long time.”

The Alma Enrichment Partnership Program: Art and Design and Knowledge and Persuasion, are facilitated by the college’s Center for College and Community Engagement (3CE).