West Virginia Universitys Center for Black Culture (CBC) is making the transition from high school to college easier for first-year minority students by offering a comprehensive program that teaches them how to manage their time and money and other life skillsand most importantly how to be good citizens.

PASSkey, or Personal Academic Support Service, is a freshman orientation class that has been a part of WVU life since the 1980s. It is taught by Todd McFadden, CBC associate director.

Primarily designed to assist black students in successfully adjusting to college life, the class is equivalent to the University 101 orientation course required of all new freshmen, and is just one of many programs the CBC develops and delivers to the WVU community.

The PASSkey program focuses on teamwork, community service, career exploration, cultural awareness and more. Special events include get-acquainted meetings, an annual Multicultural Day open house and other social activities.

CecilC.J.Joseph, a senior criminology and investigations major from the Bronx, N.Y., serves as a mentor.

PASSkey equips minority students with the necessary skills they need to make it through their first year and hopefully through their college career,he said.

The program teaches students the basics of college life such as finding time to study and working out a budget, he added.

Time and money management are two very important things that are taught, but thats not all,Joseph said.We also show them how to talk to their professors, how to interact with people and basically how to succeed at WVU .

Participants work one-on-one with other student mentors as well as adult mentors who are able to make the new students feel comfortable by sharing their past experiences with them.

We show these kids how to succeed by showing them our mistakes, hoping that they wont make the same ones,Joseph said.We cant hold their hands, but we can point them in the right direction. If they do fall, one thing that they can count on is that PASSkey will be there to help them up.

In this class, a tight bond is created between students and mentors,he added.

That close-knit relationship lasts through their time at WVU and beyondand gives new students a solid base and feeling of community in Morgantown.

There is a sense of friendship and community you dont often see on a campus as large as WVU s, where students can sometimes get lost in the shuffle,Joseph said.

PASSkey is also unique in that it takes people out of their normal comfort zones, introducing them to new people and ideas and encouraging them to open up and really get to know one another.

And former students have a chance to give back to the program by becoming mentors once they reach their junior year.

This is what keeps PASSkey goingthe students,Joseph said.We love this program so much we want to give back for what it did for us by being that guide for someone else. When you boil it all down, its basically one big �€~pass it forwardpeople helping people the same way someone helped them. We show and take them to various programs on campus that helps them make better choices.

Mentors in the program receive yearly training from the Carruth Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, financial aid, Social Justice and the Health Sciences Center so that they are prepared to help students with any problem they may have.

They are always available to help the students, but at the same time, they know when to take a step back.

We are their release valve here at WVU , but we also know and are trained on when we need to step aside and call in the professionals,he said.

The PASSkey program also makes sure it gives back to the community with extensive community service projects, from raising money for the Boys and Girls Club to making Easter bunny masks to cheer up the children in WVU s Childrens Hospital.

We help educate the students in PASSkey that this is their community, and they have an obligation to take care of it,Joseph said.

On the Net:http://www.wvu.edu/~cbcr/passkey.htm