It’s a Disco Weekend!

When I first heard about the DiscoMidd program I was psyched, but for all of the wrong reasons. In Portugal we call clubs discotecas or discos so I immediately conjured up an image of all us Senior Fellows getting dressed in our slinky best and hitting the Vermont nightlife scene.

Lost in translation, apparently.

What DiscoMidd, or Discover Middlebury is actually a program that Middlebury hosts every year which we call a “multicultural open house”—it is open to prospective student who come from under-represented groups at Middlebury: African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, and American Indian students; students (regardless of ethnicity) with demonstrated financial hardship; and students who are first in their families to pursue a four-year college education.

The idea is that Middlebury provides transportation, food, and housing to this group of 75 students, and shows them what Middlebury is really like, pairing them up with a student host, letting them sit in on classes, attend talks and club meetings, and generally get the feeling for the school.

Upon realizing the real meaning of the program, I became instantly even more excited than when I’d imagined it to be a night on the town, because I knew that I wanted to dive in headfirst to the project. Getting a chance to work on this sort of initiative is precisely the reason that I applied to be a Senior Fellow.

Let me explain a little bit about why this initiative is near and dear to my heart: I grew up shuffling between countries—Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Japan—and never staying in one long enough to learn everything about their school systems. So when I finally decided that I wanted to apply to a college in the United States, I was at a loss for where to start. While my parents were both educated and supportive, they expected me to be independent in my application process and there was no hand-holding or proof-reading of essays. I did not grow up visiting U.S. colleges , did not know which ones were the best or what activities gave me the best shot at getting admitted, and did not have a college guidance counselor to steer my choices. Instead, I spent hours poring over college websites, bought myself a big, fat book of American colleges, and painstakingly pieced together the way to go about filling out forms.

It is not entirely due to  luck that I am at Middlebury; I was always a good student and hard worker, but my path was not as smooth as other from an East Coast high school. I firmly believe that no student should have to go through the process alone, like I did, but should have in place a network of support—family, teachers, counselors, siblings, friends, bosses—that can help them decided where they want to go and help them tackled the logistical mountains to getting there. But for those who do not have this safety net, we, Middlebury should pick up the slack and serve a bigger role.

Because of Middlebury’s commitment to giving students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to the chance to see our school, I will be taking a shuttle up from the Admissions Office to the Burlington airport at 8.45 on a Homecoming Sunday, I will be greeting students as they come in from their trips, I will be shuttling back down with the last trip at 4.00pm, I will be matching them with hosts, and then I will be leading a student question panel from 7.00-9.00pm. And I will be loving every second of it.

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