UO's SAIL program seeks volunteers for school visits

The University of Oregon's Summer Academy To Inspire Learning (SAIL) – a pipeline program that helps make higher education a realistic goal for disadvantaged middle school and high school students – is looking for UO professors, GTFs and students to conduct visits at local schools.

Volunteers will visit Eugene-Springfield high schools to share their expertise and college experiences. Those who are interested in helping with the program can e-mail Lara Fernandez, the SAIL program's director.

Volunteering with the program requires a nominal time commitment in return for benefits to everyone involved.

The SAIL program was developed and is led by volunteer UO faculty, with the goal of increasing the number of low-income students going on to higher education. It offers talks, demonstrations and interactive experiences with UO faculty; a sampling of campus and college life; and instruction on the admission and financial aid processes.

Bruce Blonigen and Bill Harbaugh - both economics professors at the UO - initiated SAIL in 2005 as a one-week day camp for 15 Springfield Middle School students who would be entering 9th grade that fall. The program now has nine faculty-led summer camps serving 160 students and involving hundreds of volunteer hours from faculty and staff.

Students progress through a new camp each summer until their senior year, covering a variety of academic topics. The goal is for students to finish four years of SAIL with the belief that applying for college is the natural and normal next step, and with the tools to get admitted and succeed.

Faculty coordinators of the week-long camps, in addition to Blonigen and Harbaugh, include: Scott Klein and Eric Pakulak (psychology), Raghuveer Parthasarathy (physics), Peter O’Day (biology), Andrew Karduna (physiology), Matt Schmidt (journalism), Brian McWhorter (performing arts), Karen Ford (English), and Lisa Fortin (education). 

Students are recruited for SAIL on the basic criteria that they are smart and belong in college, but are unlikely to continue their education after high school because of family income. Most come from families with no history of college education, and many are from English-as-a second-language households.

Representatives of SAIL visit participating schools and make presentations during the academic year, then meet with principals and teachers who provide lists of potential recruits for the program's 9th grade class. Students who complete the initial session are invited back each summer throughout high school.

- from UO's Summer Academy To Inspire Learning program