By: Josh Blicker  | 

Schneier Program Invites Local High School Students to Attend Campus Classes

On the 17th and 19th of February, Yeshiva College opened its doors to a group of five local high school students from the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS). The students attended a groundbreaking program called WHEELS at Yeshiva College, which allows YU to give back to the Washington Heights Community in a new, exciting way: Instead of sending YU students and faculty to the homes and schools of members of the Washington Heights community, like many of YU’s other community programs, this program focused on giving this group of exceptional college-bound students an opportunity to learn more about college by attending classes at Yeshiva College. Headed by Dr. Ruth Bevan, the chair of the YC Department of Political science, and sponsored by the Schneier Program for International Affairs, the visiting students had the opportunity to attend and participate in classes such as Great Political Thinkers, Diaspora Literature, and Constitutional Law.

According to Dr. Bevan, the program was founded to help YU give back to the Washington Heights community in a way “that is more interactive and hands on,” in addition to the number of other community building programs which YU currently runs. In her search for a school to partner with, she reached out to Mr. Rodriguez, the principal of WHEELS, who Bevan describes as a “fantastic and really interactive” educator. Bevan aims to use the program to “bring the Washington Heights Community to us, so the students [from WHEELS] can see what we do, and help them develop an understanding of what college is all about.” Although the students from WHEELS will not attend YU, Bevan feels that the program is an excellent way for YU to help jump-start the university careers of a group of talented students.

Upon their arrival at YU, each student was assigned to a current YU student who served as a mentor during the visit. The mentors fielded the students’ questions and helped make them feel comfortable at YU. On the first day of the program, after having lunch with Dr. Bevan and their YU mentors, the students each received a copy of Plato’s Republic, which they would be learning in one of their YC classes, with a letter from Dr. Bevan that was personalized for each student.

One of the visiting students, Hamlet Fernandez, a senior at WHEELS who has been accepted to Lehman college, stated that his favorite part of the program was “meeting different people in each class.”  Fellow WHEELS participant, Daniel Luperon, also“liked how the discussions were interactive, which helped people better understand the topics discussed.” Another student named Rubert Vasquez commented on how differently the classes are structured in the university setting than in the traditional high school classroom. He felt that in “each class, it appeared that almost every question would spark an interesting conversation based on the text or information discussed.”

When asked about the program, YU mentor Celso Winik, a junior majoring in political science stated that “this experience will help the [visiting] students feel more confident when they attend university; people are always more nervous about something” when it is more foreign to them.

On the visiting students’ last day at YC, they joined Dr. Bevan, their mentors, and their principal in the Sky Café for lunch, where they reflected on the success of the program. A month from now, the students will return to YU where they will attend an evening film screening with Dr. Bevan, their mentors, and YU president Richard Joel.

In reference to WHEELS at Yeshiva University, president Joel stated said that “this program is completely consistent with YU’s mission—Dr. Bevan’s vision will definitely help encourage the [WHEELS] students to attend university and ultimately strengthen the community” in which they live. In the coming months, Dr. Bevan hopes to work together with YU to expand the program, which will benefit YU students and students at WHEELS.