Opening doors and horizons for the next generation of students, Berkeley Water Center doctoral students Lauren Kennedy and Scott Miller and Environmental Engineering doctoral student Kimberly Huynh opened their labs and classes to three area high school students April 13, 2017 during the 24th Annual YWCA Shadow Day at UC Berkeley.

Shadow Day brings together over 600 participants, including 300 high school students from Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley communities who pair with 300 current UC Berkeley students in a one- on-one setting.

“My primary recollection of official university visit days was a well-dressed guide spouting random facts about dining halls and why this tree or that bench has meaning,” says Miller. “Those stories were cute, but not personally engaging. So, we tailored our conversations and tour to the interests of the students. Apparently, they really wanted to see the gym – that’s something I would not have initially included in the tour!”

The program offers a unique experience for many of the high school students involved. The majority of participants are not designated as “college-tracked,” are under-represented in the university system, and come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. In addition, many of them have not applied to college and were visiting a college campus for the first time. The program allowed the high school students to learn first-hand, from Cal students, what college is really like.

“Shadow day is a great opportunity for high school students to see what campus life is like. As graduate students, we were able to give them the lab experience as well,” says Kennedy.

Huynh, Kennedy and Miller spent the day with their students, going to classes, workshops, touring campus and visiting Berkeley Water Center labs to learn about the processes of creating drinking water from wastewater from Kennedy and Miller, turning urine into fertilizer with BWC doctoral student Will Tarpeh, and removing nitrogen from wastewater using bacteria from BWC researcher Ned Antell.

Miller and Kennedy also took the students on a tour of the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) as part of their college experience.

The day also provided opportunities for high school students to learn more about applying and paying for college and resources to help them. Huynh also took the students to a panel session at the YWCA, where they listened to non-traditional students at Berkeley speak about their experiences both as college applicants and college students. Many of the speakers were transfer students from community college or worked before going back to school.

“The panel seemed like a valuable experience because it highlighted the fact that there are so many different paths that students can take between high school and college,” says Huynh, who cited her ReNUWIt Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program experience at the Berkeley Water Center as the inspiration for choosing UC Berkeley for her doctoral studies. “It was a really nice way to reach out and connect with potential students and give them a little encouragement.”