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On Tuesday, March 28, 2023, NHTI—Concord’s Community College, in partnership with the New Hampshire GEAR UP Alliance, offered a campus experience to high school students from the GEAR UP Manchester program. However, one incredibly important factor made this experience different than any other these students have done before—they were able to experience campus life in their own native languages, including Arabic, Nepali, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili. Over 80 students from Manchester West High School shuffled into NHTI’s Sweeney Auditorium to hear from a variety of campus leaders before embarking on a tour of the beautiful campus.

MaeAnna Edwards, Director of Postsecondary Access and Success with Campus Compact for New Hampshire, opened the day’s event by relaying the importance and significance of this college tour to the GEAR UP students, and thanking NHTI for their generosity and their willingness to try something unique. Dr. Patrick Tompkins, President of NHTI, followed MaeAnna’s welcome by sharing the importance of finding one’s path to post-secondary education. He encouraged students to choose a path that they truly find compelling so they can take ownership of their post-secondary journey. Dr. Tompkins reiterated that NHTI’s best value is “quality”—the best guarantor of quality is NHTI’s faculty and staff.

Dawn Higgins, an ELL Academic Advisor at NHTI, spoke to students about the support services offered to ELL students on campus—with over 600 ELL students speaking over 65 languages, NHTI provides substantial support services to students whose native language is not English. She highlighted the importance of students self-advocating and seeking out guidance and support when in need—the support is there, but the students must stand up for themselves to find it.

Shana Rowe, an Admissions Enrollment Specialist at NHTI, introduced the tour guides and helped gather students together to embark on their tours. Five different college tours were given, each in a different language, to cater to the Manchester Memorial GEAR UP students—Arabic, Nepali, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili. With the majority of students following the Spanish tour, the other tours were filled with students eager to communicate with someone both knowledgeable of the campus, its culture, and academics, but also of their native language.

When the students came back from their respective tours, their chatter and faces said everything one could possibly want to know about how it went. They ran up to their friends to talk about how the tour went smiling while walking up to a separate room where students had lingering conversations over lunch with the college students in their native languages. Natalie Barney, a GEAR UP Coordinator at Manchester Memorial High, helped coordinate the day’s event and could see how impactful the tours were for her students. In addition, Maggie Negron, an ESOL teacher in attendance, noted that this was the first college admissions event of this kind that she has ever seen. She is happy that her students now know that they can get ESOL support in college and see how accessible and within their reach post-secondary education truly is.

Three students who went on a tour with a native Swahili-speaking student, couldn’t stop raving about how special this tour was for them. Favour Aregbesola, Helene Sarah, and Eiman Idris, all said that they had never truly felt comfortable before asking questions and being their authentic selves on a tour like this. It gave them an opportunity to safely and freely ask questions, seek advice, and do so without fear of judgment. Because of this experience, they now feel that post-secondary education really is within their reach.