If you’ve ever seen a group of 30 or so middle-schoolers around campus, with faces beaming with excitement and awe, then you have probably seen CUNY Explorers at work. As the name implies, it is a CUNY-wide program, operating in roughly 15 of the CUNY institutions, including our very own Queens College.
Program coordinator and former QC student herself, Jaclyn Eng, describes that the mission of CUNY Explorers is to expose middle school students to the ins-and-outs of a college education so that every child walks away feeling like college really is for them and motivated to pursue their dreams.
Three times a week, yellow school buses bring middle-schoolers and their chaperones from every corner and every borough to the Student Union. The tour is conducted by a visit guide, sometimes in pairs and sometimes on their own, with roughly 10 to 30 students per group. They cover the main hotspots on campus, including the Quad, a lecture hall, the library, dorms, and gym. Each tour is wrapped up with lunch for the students, and a fun game that tests the students on basic college trivia that they learned on the tour.
“Through this program, we’re able to reach out to all students on a deeper level, especially those who are reserved by nature through engaging and informative activities,” remarked visit guide, Yaxkyn Mejia, who is also a post-bachelor’s student who majored in biology at Queens College.
The visit guides are all current students or Queens College alumni, which allows them to share their own personal experiences (and inside jokes), with the students. They also share fun facts about Queens College; however, visit guides also go beyond QC-related material.
They inform students of basic college facts, such as explaining the types of college degrees, majors, credits, making of schedules, and of course, how to pay for college. “Most middle-schoolers might think college is not for them because they don’t think they can afford it,” explained Hamza Tahirovic, another visit guide and current sociology and drama/theater sophomore at QC.
Students are given vital information on financial aid, as well as scholarships that all lessen the cost of college expenses. Visit guides also use this opportunity to encourage students to study hard for their tests, maintain good attendance, get involved in their school and community, and build relationships with their teachers. These guidelines create a well-rounded student who any college would want to accept.
An important goal of CUNY Explorers is to make sure that middle school children know that it is never too early to start thinking about college and that they can take action, even now, to turn their dreams into reality. As Mejia said, “programs like CUNY Explorers are necessary for a better transition between levels of education because of its supportive nature between generations.”
The QC CUNY Explorers team is very much a family. The seven visit guides and program coordinators have built a network of strong relationships and a friendly work environment.
“Every child that comes for a tour is like our little brother or sister,” said Nida Syed, recent graduate of QC who studied psychology and adolescent counseling. “We want what’s best for them, and that’s why we do what we do.”
“Working with CUNY Explorers not only allows me to develop as a leader but also give back to the community by raising awareness and making higher education more accessible, and helping to prepare the next generation of young adults,” said Stavros Anastasiou, current junior and Classics and Byzantine/Modern Greek Studies major.
With a strong team and a passionate mission, CUNY Explorers at Queens College continues to expand and offer more and more tours to more students.
CUNY Explorers is always looking for enthusiastic and passionate QC students to work as visit guides. Anyone looking for more information should contact the program coordinator, Jaclyn Eng, at Jaclyn.Eng@qc.cuny.edu.