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TCNJ to host more than 300 Trenton middle-school students at fifth annual Youth Development Institute

TCNJ LogoEWING, NJ … As their first semester of college draws to a close, freshmen from some of The College of New Jersey’s most intriguing first-year courses will impart their new wisdom to more than 300 Trenton middle-school students.

The fifth annual Youth Development Institute, sponsored by the Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement, will match groups of 6th-through-8th-graders from Hedgepeth/Williams Middle School with 150 student from TCNJ’s  Freshman Seminar Program on campus today. The freshmen will lead workshops inspired by their classes.

This year’s sessions draw from eight diverse freshman seminars: Corrupting the Youth: The Power of Philosophy; Rock and Roll in Post-Mao China; To See a World in a Grain of Sand: Reading and Writing the Short Story; Learning How to Learn;  American Film Renaissance of the 1970s; Teachers in the Media;  Language and Culture;  The Digital Domain. Presentations will vary in content and perspective, program directors say.

“The Corrupting the Youth class, for example, is an entry-level philosophy course and amenable to many different takes,” said  Brittany Aydelotte, a Democracy Project fellow at the Bonner Center who created the event and has organized it for the past five years. “One workshop will start with a discussion about freedom of speech rights, while another will ask students to view optical illusions as a way into conversations about how they evaluate information they’re given and assess the truth of what they’re told.”

All first-year students at TCNJ are required to participate in  community service projects through the college’s Community Engaged Learning (CEL) program, which includes classroom-based experiences such as the Youth Development Institute. The freshmen are assisted by scholars from the Bonner Center, students who work closely throughout their college years with schools and community organizations on issues such as urban education, health, the environment, and youth development, among many other areas.

Aydelotte called the program “an important day” for both groups.

“TCNJ students are able to apply what they learn in the classroom, and importantly, to open their eyes to work with a population of amazing inner-city students. This is an opportunity they may have never had before,” she said. “For the students from Hedgepeth/Williams, this is an opportunity to learn about things they may have never encountered in the classroom, like Chinese rock and roll music, or social media tools, or the basic concepts of philosophy.”

The Trenton students will be greeted  in the morning at a welcome session that includes performances by the Trentones, the TCNJ a capella  singing group, and Collaborations, a musical trio. During the day, they will also tour the campus and have lunch with their mentors.

For more information about the Youth Development Institute, please contact Brittany Aydelotte at 609-760-1914 or