Building Bridges: Early Outreach and Community Partnerships

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Welcome to another segment of Breaking Down Barriers with Walt Neural.

about our guest for this segment and why don't you tell our listening audience

who our guest is today. Listen I'm happy to Earl, thank you. We're happy to be here today. We have a very special guest, one that we're tremendously excited about having. It's Devin Harris from UNLV. Thank you for being here, Devon.

Thank you. Thank you, Alton Earl, for having me. I'm very excited.

Oh, that's great. Listen, if you would, other than it's great to see you, we haven't seen you, what, in three weeks? That's a long time for us. It is, but it's great to see you again.

Tell us about the Early Outreach program over here at UNLV? Of course, so UNLV early outreach, we are all about just building that college going pipeline. So, you know, our goal is to make sure that we're identifying and supporting individuals early on, primarily elementary students, middle school students, and those early high school students to just help increase their chance to be successful. You know and that's not only academically but also socially as well. So a lot of our programming focuses on you know soft skill development as well as those college readiness skills that will help increase their chances of you know post-secondary success. So early outreach there's a quote from one of our CAPS professionals here at UNLV. So I'll give a shout out to Dr. Crabb, one of our beloved partners as well. And she talked a lot about Early Outreach being able to, you know, change lives, change generational outcomes, you know, ultimately our community and the world. And that's truly what the Early Outreach program and team believes here at UNLV is that by reaching students and families early on we can do just that. You know, through our programming and through exposing these students and families to what post-secondary life looks like, you know, and how that can change the trajectory, you know, for their students' lives and

their family as a whole. Okay, great. Devin, you know, share with our listening audience what you think, what are the most important lessons for parents to share with their kids about education?

Yeah, I think one of the most important lessons that we always like to tell our parents is to share their own journey. And a lot of times, we work with parents who say, but I didn't go to college. You know, is that beneficial still? And the answer is always yes. So regardless of whether our parents went to college or not, share what that college and or career journey look like for you. Why did you decide to go the route that you took? That's what we want students to be able to see and to hear and to know that the path to college, the path to career, looks different for everyone. There is no road that's the same, but that's what makes us all unique and special and valuable and then you get to share that knowledge on and pass that along to other students coming behind. Another thing that we like to encourage our parents to share with their kids is conversate, have those conversations, talk about what your students should be doing now, again, both academically and socially. So even as young as kindergarten, and sometimes folks are thinking like, how do you talk to a kindergartner about college? How do you break it down to their level? And a lot of times, a great thing is just bringing them on a college campus, right? And explaining that just like you go to school, this is as you get older, you'll have an opportunity to go to a school like this, you know, where you take classes and you get to do some fun, exciting things and meet new friends, you know. So you just play on different things that appeal to various age groups. So there's so much that the kids can be doing now, but they definitely need to have those conversations.

You know, I like that answer because, you know, Walt and I, we were, some years ago we were mentoring some youngsters at the police department, asked us to take over. And for the life of us, we lost our mind because we had a kid that wouldn't go to middle school. His parents couldn't get him. I remember that. The parents just had a well of a time getting the kid to, and he just got out of elementary school, so middle school, and they just didn't know what to do because the kid wouldn't go

to school. Remember that, Walt?

I do.

I do. You know, something that was really gratifying for Earl and I, years ago when we first started our after-school athletic programs here on campus at UNLV. Our first event was at the Cox Pavilion, and I remember something that Earl and I saw and our jaws dropped as the youngsters arrived here at school on campus. Their eyes were the size of silver dollars. They had never seen a college campus and what a difference that made to them and to their parents as you said. We don't think it happens but there are parents and families who have never been to this campus and what a beautiful campus it is. That's right, that's great. Devon, how many schools and are they elementary schools or middle schools, how many schools do you work with?

Oh, that question. It does kind of make me laugh, only because really it's countless. So, you know, early outreach, we focus on primarily elementary and middle school students. But due to, you know, just Las Vegas and our population of students that we serve, we notice that even our high school students still need some of those foundational college awareness and readiness pieces. And so we're happy to be able to bring our programming and bring that knowledge to these high school students as well so that when they start that college application process, they're familiar with some of the vocabulary, they're familiar with what types of financial aid are out there. So we do this across the valley, primarily through our early outreach menu of services. So we have that menu of services for both, for elementary, middle and high school. And I'll brag a little bit and wanna shout out my team because wow, when you talk about how many schools, we definitely track how many students we serve. So for elementary, this past school year we served over 10,500 kindergarten through fifth grade students. And then for middle school over 2,000. For high school over 2,500. And then we're really trying to work on being able to service more parents. So we serviced about 250 you know through our parent menu of services but definitely looking for more opportunities to partner with other organizations and again bring that parent aspect into it because it's so important that what we're telling the students that they can go home and have those same conversations with their parents. So equipping parents with that knowledge as well and that comfortability and you know empowering them to feel like they can have those conversations with their kids. So that's terrific. Devin, can you

elaborate a little bit more on the parent piece, the parent involvement piece

that you were referring to? Yeah, absolutely. So one of our biggest partners within the parent piece is CCSD's family engagement division, formerly called FACES, and so they have something called the University of Family Learning that offers different courses, if you will. And so our parent presentations are part of their University of Family Learning courses. And so the different elementary, middle and high schools that partner with family engagement, I still want to call them faces, will select you know, soft skills, believe it or not, y'all soft skills for success was our most popular and requested parent presentation, both in elementary and middle. So it just goes to show that even with all of those, you know, more college related presentations right now, at least parents are really wanting to learn how to work on those soft skills with their students and how they can be successful behaviorally and relationally, which to some of us that are more familiar, you know, with working with kids may not be surprising with, you know, having gone through COVID and the pandemic and we're needing to bring those back and realize how important they are to success as a whole.

You know, and one other thing that Earl and I have noticed that a lot of the children that come up and are involved in athletics or after school athletic programs, many of the parents haven't gone to college at all either. So I know it's as important to them as it would be their child. That's terrific. Devon, what are some of your future plans for early outreach? Yes, so one thing

we're really excited about coming up for this next school year on the elementary end of things, we are going to be hosting what we're calling our early outreach day camps. So those will be for students kindergarten through fifth grade. They will be held on the staff development days for CCSD. So those days when the teachers have to be at school but the students don't, but most parents still have to be at their jobs. And so the kids will be able to come to UNLV. We're going to spotlight different opportunities and academic programs, partnering with, you know, we have partnering with our fine arts where the students will get to do different activities with, you know, professors and fine arts students and, you know, really get to spotlight those academic programs. Part of our menu of services is majors and careers. So it's a wonderful opportunity for students to get to know UNLV better, folks who work at UNLV and kind of start building those connections. And really learning about what can I do when I get to college, you know, and how I can translate my interests and my passions, you know, into actual college majors and opportunities that exist. So we're really excited about those for sure.

Oh, that's, that's exciting. It sounds exciting. How do you go about recruiting your schools or notifying your schools that you have these programs? I know Walt and I, when we're out and talking to some of the schools, and we mentioned you and early outreach, the principals light up. And they're familiar with it. They're very happy. Good reputation out there. But how do you go about adding schools and getting more people involved?

Right. One of our most probably valued partnerships is actually with our CCSD counselors. So at the beginning of the school year we work with the counselor specialists for elementary, middle, and high school. They have us at their kind of beginning of the year initial meeting where we get to go and share about our programming and that has really made a difference. Looping the counselors in because they do a lot within their schools and can help, you know, when the teachers have so much going on, the counselors are able to share these opportunities and help schedule those, you know, class visits out. And then word of mouth is another one, you know, just teachers talk, administrators, you know, and, um, our Instagram at UNLV early outreach is where we will promote the different events that we have and just our community partnerships are another another big key for just getting the word out and schools kind of reaching out to us. We're actually at a really great point where we don't have to you know really try and recruit folks know, want to use our services, we have a lot. So we're pretty popular now and we appreciate it.

You do good work and people appreciate it. Do you think that there's, and I don't know if that more funding needs to go into education, in certain parts of education. Yeah, I'm over here nodding. Like 1,000% and I'm even thinking, yeah, even funding for programs like early outreach, right?

And a lot of our community partners as well that are trying to do this work a lot of our community partners as well that are trying to do this work with really the staffing too. I mean, wow, that if we had more staffing, but of course then you need funding to be able to pay staff, you know, and I just, it makes me think back to when one of the elementary counselor specialists called me a couple of years ago and said, do you have something that you can offer all 200 plus of my counselors? And I just said, no. But it made me start thinking that, you know, we needed to make our programming more sustainable, you know, and there in stemmed our menu of services. And, and while we have so much more we want to do, it takes people and it takes money, you know, and, um, even, even access to, and getting into the schools and there's just so much you know there's a lot but yes always more funding

more funding for our schools. You know a question that in the last five years I've never asked you but I I'd like to do it today. You have you have seen our programs here on campus with our elementary school kids, parents, etc. And the big part of this for us is one of the big parts are the police department. Law enforcement in general, LVMPD, North Las Vegas PD, and Henderson. And they come out and they work with the kids during the events. How do you feel that makes a big difference, not only from the educational standpoint, but developing relationships at an early age with these youngsters?

Yes, that's a great question. It absolutely makes a difference. And I think what I've enjoyed the most is seeing how much more the officers are, you know, catching on to it, right? So it's not always the most comfortable for the students and or the officers sometimes interacting in these spaces, right? You know, especially if they're not as familiar with working with students, or what do you say? What kind of conversations are you supposed to have? You know, or just those preconceived notions we have and we come with, you know, on both ends, student and officer. But it's been so wonderful to watch, you know, how as we have more of these events and different types of events, not just athletic-based, but, you know, promoting academics as well, and giving these officers a chance to serve on panels and answer, you know, questions directly from students and the hard questions too, right? Has really helped break down, you know, start to break down those barriers and really create those conversations and start building, breaking down kind of that, sometimes that fear even, or that, just that divide. They're uncomfortable. Yes, yes.

You know, Walt and I used to be board members of the Southern Nevada POW, and when we were board members, we went to New Orleans to the National Convention. And we were just totally shocked that a lot of the chapters we spoke to had never thought of partnering with higher education, whether it's the community college in their city or state or just the university. When we taught them about how we partnered with UNLV and they just lost their mind and just couldn't conceive that. And so how would you, if you had to have a community component come and partner with you, how would you, how would that be approached? How would you invite them?

Oh yeah, I'm just, you're talking just new community partners, right? Yeah, absolutely. That's probably my, honestly, my unexpected favorite part of this job, of my job, and of Early Outreach, are building these community partnerships. And you two are a big reason why. I think you're probably my closest community community partners. And so we absolutely, you know, that's exactly what we want to do, you know, and it's kind of amazing how there's so many organizations and, you know, out there doing such good work and a lot of the work that we are all doing, you know, intersect in some way. And so it's kind of finding where that aligns, and how we can just enhance, right and support what each other's doing, not try to take away, you know, attendance from this or that, you know, but it's that, like, could we add to that in some way, you know, and we in early outreach, we never claim to be the experts on, you know, anything really. I mean, you know, well, college and career awareness and readiness. But there's even, you know, there's, I mean, there's so many experts out there in that area, too. And we'd love to learn more. And so, especially community partnerships in those areas where, you know, we definitely don't feel like claim to be the experts. We love being able to do that because we want to bring the best to our students, to our families, to our events, you know, and also introduce them to the community that's around them, you know, so community partnerships are huge for us. You know,

Earl, that's a great, great question. What we saw at that National Convention with major cities that have wonderful universities there that they just never thought to contact the university. And I don't know how we kind of got involved way back when, I can't remember, but it was such a delight. And the people here and you and your staff work so hard to make these programs a success, not only for you, but for us. It's really something to see and we get to

experience it. You guys do a lot of the work. So that's nice. And first hand, I mean the partnership and I'll speak for Walt because we both feel the same way. The partnership, you guys because we were excited, one, for the kids to see the university, to drop that seed, you know, I can go here, and then for the parents and the family to experience. And what's so funny is all we were hearing in the beginning was, oh, the parents won't be able to get there, da-da-da-da-da-da, you know, that was never a problem, getting the parents here to see their kids compete and then for them to take a look at this beautiful university and somehow be involved and, you know, fantasize about their kid. So we like to like to thank you for that. That partnership. And you guys just you and Barb and the rest of everybody has just been terrific to work with. really, really happy. I had a quick question for you. How did the pandemic change for that period of time or if it's still going on, how you did business and how we had to go? Because we still had to keep going. So, share

that experience. Right, definitely. It changed it dramatically. So, you know, we're at the schools, and once, you know, the world kind of shut down, we had to turn everything that we used to do in person into virtual. And that was definitely different for us, you know, because we so much enjoy being able to connect with students you know, in person and just see their, you know, feel their energy. We thrive off of that too, you know, on my team, the three professional staff, we were all former teachers, so we love being in the classroom. So it just all makes sense. But when the pandemic, during the pandemic, again, we, but we say the pandemic was a work blessing in disguise, in that we had always wanted to do that menu of services that I spoke about before. And the pandemic finally allowed us to because we weren't at the schools, you know, we weren't having those large on-campus partnership events. We weren't doing the early outreach campus visits and tours. So now all we had to do was, you know, our presentations and, and all of this. So it gave us time because we're really rooted in research. We want to make sure that the information we're putting out there, you know, is backed by research. So it gave us time to do that and create, you know, the slide shows and make them engaging and add in those pieces of how are we going to keep the attention span of kindergartners virtually while we talk about fixed versus growth mindset, you know, but it was amazing how students we could serve now because we weren't just doing things classroom by classroom, but we had all third, fourth, and fifth grade at the whole school in one Google Meet. So big difference and we could offer programming out of state now which was really neat, right? Because most of our programming is done here in Las Vegas, especially in person, but now that we have everything virtual as well, you know, we had a school, I believe from Florida, that had us, you know, virtually to do majors and careers with their students.

So I didn't know that.

Now we can be everywhere. So that's a really cool thing coming from the pandemic.

It sure is.

We try to look for the positives, too, you know.

Well, listen, we'd like to thank you for being our guest today. You know, we love working with you. We love working with this university. And we're very excited about what the future holds. And so we're definitely going to have you on again. Yeah, thank you. We'll make a point of that. Devin, thank your staff, because as busy as we all get, and you know with the events and we're running around doing things, we never really have the right amount of time to thank you or your staff and all the people that make this stuff happen. It makes, in terms of us breaking down barriers in our community, we've got to get our cops and our kids together and you gave us a great forum to do it. And it's made a difference, big difference, I know. Not only for the kids, but for the cops as well. Earl and I have seen that as well.

And for the city and the parents. Oh, absolutely. I mean, it makes a difference.

It takes us all. And I appreciate you guys also recognizing my team, because truly, when I talked about those numbers of students we serve that was them that was my team out there you know doing those outreach visits and it's it's and we've seen them in action yeah more than once and so we know and I always want to recognize all the hard work and passion they put in and the energy because they have a lot of energy yeah thank you again Devin Walt our listening office, our audience. Until next time, you're listening to Breaking Down Barriers with Walt Neuril.

Thank you very much.

Breaking Down Barriers is brought to you by GLOW Fitness, a fitness studio offering a variety of classes and sessions like Mommy and Me for mothers wanting to connect with their children through fitness, offering strength training, boot camps, and more. Glow Fitness is located at 4250 East Bonanza Road, Suite 19. Specials and class schedules available at or on Instagram. More information by phone at or on Instagram. More information by phone at 702-612-6414

Building Bridges: Early Outreach and Community Partnerships
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