SAIL from summer into a new school year

September 23rd, 2010

With fall term classes about to begin, this is a fitting time for reflection on my own return to the classroom this summer. It was brief – a single, one-hour lecture – but it served to remind me why I love my job, why we are all here, and what an important mission we carry out.

The subject was familiar to me: Sanskrit, and the ancient language’s role in the development of Indian culture as well as its influences upon the other Indo-European languages that would follow.

My students made this summer’s lecture a unique and refreshing experience for me. They were 9th-graders from working-class families, taking part in the University of Oregon’s SAIL Program (Summer Academy to Inspire Learning) – a free, weeklong day camp intended to make higher education a realistic goal for students of their background.

SAIL was initiated four years ago by UO economics professors Bruce Blonigen and Bill Harbaugh, who along with the other UO faculty in the program volunteer their time for this. SAIL is offered to bright students who would not otherwise be college-bound due to their families’ economic situations. Those 9th-graders who complete their first year of camp are invited back each year through high school.

It has become a strong focus of the UO to reach out to students such as those in the SAIL Program – first-generation and other non-traditional college students. I was the first in my family to attend college, and that opportunity has opened the world to me. Our mission at the UO is to make higher education available to a broad range of students, and we are committed to serving as an avenue to excellence.

During this summer’s lecture, I told my classroom of 9th-graders that early Indian scholars believed everything worth knowing was in Sanskrit. I told them of prospective students in ancient India who were required to memorize entire textbooks before they were accepted by their teachers.

But I hope and believe what they learned is that education is a key to the doorway of opportunity. And that institutions such as the UO can help students from all walks of life to unlock the promise of brilliance and fulfillment.

That is what we do, and why we’re here.

« Back to Blog Home