WWU Navigates Kids to College

If you happened to be on the campus at Western Washington University today, as I was earlier this morning, you might think that WWU’s university students had gotten a lot shorter, and younger.  In a way, they have. At least if Cindy Shepard, the WWU President’s wife, has anything to do with it.

Fifth grade students from all over the region arrive for their first day on campus.
Fifth grade students from all over the region arrive for their first day on campus.

Shortly after the Shepards arrived in Bellingham (Bruce Shepard took over from Karen Morse as the new president), Cindy launched a program similar to one she had done at their previous university stop. Called Compass 2 Campus, it pairs the area’s fifth through twelfth-graders with university students who mentor them for a full year.

Volunteers like Margaret help greet the arriving students as they make their way towards the university gym.
” Volunteers like Margaret help greet the arriving students as they make their way towards the university gym.

During the school year, the kids visit the campus, experience different aspects of college, participate in workshops and basically learn what it means to be a university student.   It’s a great way to introduce the idea of higher education to the kids.  And for the university students who take part in the program, many of whom are education majors but not all, it gives them a life-long college memory unlike any other.

“You should see these kids when they leave, their faces are just beaming,” said Truc Thon, a community member and program volunteer.  I ran into Truc and the other Compass 2 Campus volunteers–many of whom were friends of mine–this morning when they were greeting the kids who were arriving at the university literally by the busloads for this first day of this year’s program.

Volunteer Truc loves to see the smiles on the students faces as they arrive.
Volunteer Truc loves to see the smiles on the students faces as they arrive.

I’m not sure who was more excited for their arrival, the volunteers or the kids.  The fifth graders were wearing bright chartreuse T-shirts with the Compass 2 Campus logo emblazoned on the front.  Many of them were hauling along big backpacks too, just like the university students who were hurrying on their way to class at the same time.  The university’s student volunteers met each group as they unloaded and then escorted them towards the middle of campus where they all would attend an opening ceremony of sorts that was designed to resemble a college graduation.

The chartreue-colored t-shirts of fifth graders were hard to miss, even in the morning fog, as the visiting fifth graders gathered before the university's Wade King Recreation Center.
The chartreuse-colored t-shirts of fifth graders were hard to miss, even in the morning fog, as the visiting fifth graders gathered before the university’s Wade King Recreation Center.

They would remain on campus all day, until 3 p.m. during which they would visit many of the different departments, perhaps sample a little cafeteria fare, and get to see what it’s like to be a university student. For many of these kids, it’s the first time that any of them have ever set foot on a college campus. The hope is, at least as far as Cindy Shepard and the program volunteers are concerned, it won’t be their last.

An Autumn Hike

Autumn is in full bloom here in beautiful Bellingham and the Pacific Northwest.  The season has made for some fabulous portrait photography settings for my high school seniors and family clients.  (Will share a few of those in a separate post.) I promised a while ago to share with you some of this year’s autumnal photographic treats from my personal portfolio and am finally taking a breather from my portrait work to do exactly that.

I have been itching to get out and take advantage of the gorgeous weather and color to take a photographic hike.   I decided this morning was the morning.  The fog was thick this morning but it makes for great mood.  I picked up a friend and the two of us went for a short hike nearby.  Just enough to quench my thirst for photographing some fall foliage.

The overhanging tree limb frames the leave-strewn trail.
The overhanging tree limb frames the leave-strewn trail.

I always think of the great nature photographer, Eliot Porter, when I’m on one of these outings. His work has long inspired me.  I have several books of his photographs in my collection and have been fortunate to see some of his work firsthand.  The composition, printing and color control of his images is masterful.

This has been a great fall for spider webs. They are such works of art. This one sparkled in the early morning sun.
This has been a great fall for spider webs. They are such works of art. This one sparkled in the early morning sun.

For most of his career (he died in 1990), he used a view camera, which is why his images have such depth and detail to them.  What he would have done with a digital camera one can only guess.  If you ever have an opportunity to see his work in a museum, gallery or work, I urge you do so.  Am sure you’ll be just as inspired as I am.

Often it's the smallest details that make the shot.
Often it’s the smallest details that make the shot.

One of the things that studying Porter’s images has taught me is to look for the little details, As a journalist, I did this all the time on my assignments. It’s those small details that can make the story or photograph.

The Pacific Northwest is so lush with vegetation that it's at times almost too rich for the eyes.
The Pacific Northwest is so lush with vegetation that it’s at times almost too rich for the eyes.

Sometimes it’s hard to focus in on the smaller details, especially when you are faced with such, rich, lush and verdant surroundings as we have here in the Pacific Northwest.  The question then becomes, for the photographic artist, how to take it all in? When do you include it in its entirety and when do you zoom in to limit the view to one significant aspect?  Those artistic decision become the fun, as well as the challenges to evaluating your images.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this ‘virtual’ autumn walk in the woods with me.  And if you have, please ‘follow’ my blog for future posts and share them with your friends.  Together, we can have great photographic adventures!

So many spiders had taken up residence in this one area that I just had to made a visual record of their 'urban village.'
So many spiders had taken up residence in this one area that I just had to made a visual record of their ‘urban village.’

The turning maple leaves,  their edges polka dotted with dark spots, dramatically contrast against the morning's gray, foggy sky.
The turning maple leaves, their edges polka-dotted with dark spots, dramatically contrast against the morning’s gray, foggy sky.