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Sampling the Campus in Their Own Backyard

ETHS students spend a day at Northwestern to experience college life up close

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May 30, 2013 | by Stephen Anzaldi
ETHS students visit NorthwesternETHS students visit NorthwesternETHS students visit NorthwesternETHS students visit Northwestern
Evanston Township High School students spend a day at Northwestern. Photos by Jim Prisching
Evanston Township High School students spend a day at Northwestern. Photos by Jim Prisching
Evanston Township High School students spend a day at Northwestern. Photos by Jim Prisching
Evanston Township High School students spend a day at Northwestern. Photos by Jim Prisching

EVANSTON, Ill. --- More than 100 Evanston Township High School (ETHS) sophomores and juniors got a close look at college life during Kits 'n' Cats@NU, a daylong college awareness program held at Northwestern University.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon welcomed students to start the day, and a discussion of the admissions process followed.

The high school students ("Kits") took campus tours led by Northwestern students ("Cats"). They visited science labs, heard from football coach Pat Fitzgerald and stopped by WNUR, the campus radio station, as well as the Block Museum of Art. In a hands-on engineering design challenge the students even developed a new tool for surgeons.

Kits 'n' Cats@NU is designed to boost college awareness and access for first-generation college students and those who have not yet decided if they will attend college.

"This is much more than the typical college tour," said Kristen Perkins, Northwestern-ETHS partnership coordinator. "We work hard to add a personal element to the day so students can envision what their college careers might look like."

In a candid talk over lunch that the ETHS students are unlikely to forget, Fitzgerald shared his passion and secrets to success in sports and life.

A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Fitzgerald played linebacker on the 1995 Northwestern team that went to the Rose Bowl. Last season, he coached the Wildcats to their first bowl win since 1949 and became the winningest head coach in the University’s football history.

Northwestern students, including quarterback Kain Colter, then took questions about their college experience and the realities of life after high school. Corey Winchester, a Northwestern alumnus and current ETHS teacher, led the Q and A.

During campus tours, the ETHS students visited landmark sites like Deering Memorial Library, The Rock and Norris University Center. They also stopped by the National High School Institute Cherubs program for outstanding high school students.

In a session at the Segal Design Institute, students designed a step stool for surgeons, following the lead of clinical associate professor David Gatchell as they brainstormed ideas and evaluated viable solutions for use in a hospital.

"Our students got to see the design process from start to finish," said ETHS teacher Cindy Curtis. "By the time the session ended, they had a better understanding of what it means to be an engineer working on real-world problems."

Kits 'n' Cats@NU is hosted by Northwestern's Office of Community Relations, and it is supported by ETHS staff and Northwestern’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships.