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PAGE: Creating 21st century learners and leaders

EdNC is running a series of articles this week about the Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education. The mission of PAGE is "to provide innovative learning opportunities for adolescent girls in Appalachia."

As part of PAGE’s mission to provide innovative learning opportunities to adolescent girls in Appalachia, 22 girls spent a week on Duke’s campus earlier this summer, getting tours of Duke and UNC, meeting with Duke student groups, and getting a taste of college life. Deborah Hicks-Rogoff, founder of PAGE, saw this week as an opportunity to expand and enrich the program towards her goal of “creating 21st century learners and leaders.”

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The group drove over 5 hours from Madison County to spend the week at Duke

The group consisted of 22 PAGE girls, ranging in age from rising 8th graders to rising 10th graders, three high school interns, PAGE photographer Mikalah, and five Duke student interns along with the program staff. For many girls, this was their first time on a college campus. The whole group stayed in dorms on Duke’s freshman campus and ate all their meals in the dining hall — an experience in and of itself for the PAGE girls.

Expanding educational opportunities

Exposure to higher education and an opportunity to experience college life is an important part of the PAGE experience. On Monday, they took a tour of the Duke campus, stopping by the bookstore to pick up some Duke gear. On Tuesday, I joined the group for a tour of UNC. We stopped by the legendary Old Well to take pictures, toured the libraries and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, and ended at the bookstore. During the tours, the girls heard from Duke and UNC students about their experiences at each school. The next day the girls toured Meredith College, and later in the week, the girls were scheduled to meet with a Duke student group focused on women’s leadership.

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PAGE girls on a tour of UNC Chapel Hill
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At the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

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Throughout their time at PAGE, the girls are encouraged to think about college, and getting to spend a week on a college campus made the experience more real for them. Gretchen, a rising 8th grade student, said that the week at Duke “got me more excited for the experience — how you can be independent but also have structure.” Scarlet described how the experience helped her understand what it would be like to actually go to college. Angelena told me her favorite part was visiting the schools and staying in dorms: “You got to act like you were a college kid for a week!”

For Alexis, one of the high school interns and a rising senior, PAGE has been instrumental in her path to college. Describing the impact of the trip on the younger girls, she said, “I was thinking about college when I was that young because of PAGE, so it was a good experience for them to see it.” Beyond getting her to think about college, this trip inspired her to apply to Meredith College. She knew she wanted to be a social worker but didn’t realize that she could go to a school specifically for social work. After seeing Meredith College’s social work program, she decided to apply.

As the girls chatted about which school they liked better, I could see “the girl effect” at work. PAGE is positioning these girls to be our learners and leaders in the 21st century.

Molly Osborne

Molly Osborne is the director of policy for EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.