Building on a connection that began last year in Huron, more than 160 students from Huron elementary and middle schools, all wearing “Be Bold” T-shirts sponsored by United Way, spent a day visiting the Fresno State campus.

“Our goal is to expose these young students to several aspects of what college means so they can develop a vision of themselves as future scientists, artists or athletes,” said First Lady Mary Castro, wife of University President Joseph I. Castro. “We would love to see them back as Fresno State Bulldogs. It all begins with a dream. We want them to be bold as they study and stay on track to graduate from high school.”

Fresno State partnered with United Way Fresno and Madera Counties for a second year on the “More than a Backpack” giveaway. The Castros and Olympic and WBC world champion boxer Jose Ramirez traveled to Huron on Aug. 14, where more than 1,200 students received new backpacks full of school supplies and a letter of encouragement from the University president.

Kacey Auston of United Way said most Huron residents live at or below the poverty level. Going to college after high school isn’t a consideration for many of them.

The hope is to change that pattern by establishing relationships between the University and students, many of whom have never visited a college campus, when they are younger.

This group of Huron students’ visit to Fresno State featured a tour of the campus, a meet-and-greet with the wrestling student-athletes (whom they have written fan letters to) and coach Troy Steiner, performances by Fresno State choir and theatre arts students, a hands-on physics activity and a dinner hosted by the President’s Office. The students met with President Castro and watched the Bulldogs wrestling team take on Oregon State at the Save Mart Center before heading home with signed posters and motivational gift bags.

For an added bonus, boxer Ramirez donated tickets for students and their families to come back to campus for his Feb. 10 championship bout at the Save Mart Center.

The “More than a Backpack” event started last year to give back to smaller communities in Fresno and Madera counties that are in need but often get overlooked. While the backpacks are the focal point, the event also gives a little something extra to students. Chevron, the sponsor for this event, provided funds to allow the Huron students to visit Fresno State.

“We are grateful for the partnership between Chevron, United Way and Fresno State that has made this visit possible,” Mary Castro said. “It has been exciting to be a part of the collaboration on campus between the College of Science and Mathematics, the College of Arts and Humanities, the Department of Athletics and Campus Outreach and Special Programs. The Office of the President is looking forward to a day these students will never forget.”