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BBYO Tour Provides Taste of College Life at University of Texas

November 15, 2006

Teens from Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Tulsa gathered in Austin recently for the first-ever BBYO/Texas Hillel college experience, hosted at the new Topfer Center for Jewish Life. Nearly fifty high school juniors and seniors spent the weekend at the University of Texas learning about campus activities and the college admissions process. Distinct programming for juniors focused on standardized test preparation and researching schools, while seniors discussed making a smooth transition to the academic and extracurricular opportunities on campus.

"So many of our teens are interested in college," said BBYO Regional Director Sherrie Stalarow of Dallas, "and we can provide an important service by introducing them to campus life and to the Hillel community."

Among the key objectives of the trip was making the teens aware of Jewish programming at UT, which is among the largest and most vibrant Hillel campuses in the country, with more than 4,000 Jewish students. UT is also one of the premier choices for Jewish teens across Texas, with several hundred BBYO high school alumni now studying in Austin. A Friday evening reception brought together the high-schoolers with friends from BBYO at the University. These personal relationships create a sense of continuity between high school and college that helps to strengthen BBYO, Hillel, and the broader Jewish community.

Jeff Levine, an alumnus of BBYO and UT working with the San Jacinto College District in Houston, facilitated a "Tricks of the Trade" seminar to give teens a leg-up in presenting themselves most favorably to college admissions officers. He discussed essay-writing, résumé-building and the importance of leadership activities such as BBYO.

Levine was joined by representatives from the University of Kansas and Indiana University – both popular choices among Texas high school graduates. Sarah Thompson Booher, Associate Director of Recruitment at Indiana University, praised BBYO for its commitment to "teen leadership and involvement," and emphasized the importance of programs such as the BBYO/Texas Hillel tour that encourage teens to be proactive and educated in the realm of college admissions.

Student leaders representing the myriad of campus activities at UT met with the teens to talk about organizations such as Texans for Israel, Jewish fraternities and sororities, and Tzedek Hillel (social action and service programming). UT History and Sociology senior Mimi Hall – an activist with Texans for Israel, AEPhi sorority – led a special walking tour of the Forty Acres in Austin, including the Tower and several of the University dorms.

"Our time in Austin was amazing," said high school senior Julie Judson of Dallas. "The program was a great mix of social activities and admissions information, and all of us came away very much looking forward to college life and Hillel."

Julie Fishman, BBYO's Director of College Initiatives based in Washington, was thrilled with the success of this pilot project. "It makes sense for us to get involved in college prep opportunities, since it's a major priority for our juniors and seniors. We hope to replicate the Texas model in other communities and continue to develop our partnership with Hillel."

Other college-related programs to be offered by BBYO include mentoring (identifying college students to share information about their campuses with high-schoolers) and community-based college fairs. "What's important is to make teens aware of Jewish life after high school," said BBYO's Fishman. "Keeping them involved is vital to the Jewish future."

As the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement, BBYO aspires to offer meaningful Jewish experiences for unaffiliated and marginally-affiliated teens. For more than eighty years, BBYO has provided renowned leadership and educational programs. The organization's 250,000 living alumni are among the most prominent figures in business, politics, academia, the arts and Jewish communal life. BBYO's unique online network - b-linked.org - connects thousands of teens, giving them access to a variety of resources to help them through the college admissions process, take part in community service projects, travel the world and communicate with their peers. Those who become a part of the BBYO community enter a lifelong network of friends, enriched by Jewish values, with a common commitment to strengthening the Jewish community.

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