By Julie Lavoie, first year AmeriCorps member on the Northwest Elementary School team sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal
At times, a single tiny idea can sprout into something much larger and more spectacular. During an ordinary Monday meeting, I asked my team, the City Year Northwest team, about an idea to make college posters. I simply wanted to hang posters featuring university names around the school to get students thinking about the possibility of going to college someday. When I bounced this idea of my team, they wanted to expand on the idea. Thanks to a whole lot of teamwork, this tiny idea transformed into the College Week initiative.
For one week in March, College Week was geared toward getting our elementary students to believe that they can achieve their goals and attend a university. College Week consisted of a “Spirit Day” where City Year corps members represented colleges by wearing college apparel. Another day of College Week was dedicated to the Mock College Fair. City Year corps members created fictional colleges to educate students about in an interactive manner. Students could talk with “representatives” (corps members) from both the fictional colleges as well as with representatives from real colleges, just to start to explore what college could be. During College Week, City Year members also asked students to think of a college they had heard of, and write its name on a small slip of paper. Then, we took all of the papers and created a display at school, helping them to start to envision this as a part of their future.
The last part of College Week was a visit to a local campus, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Fortunately, the entire fifth grade was able to go on the field trip to SNHU! We could not have made the field trip come to life without all of our City Year members, Helen Davies from SNHU, and our principal Shelly Larochelle. We were all very excited to show the fifth graders what an actual college looks like, and how delicious the food can be!
We hoped the students would be as thrilled about the field trip as we were. We expected that a tour of campus might just inspire a handful of students. If students could only see what college is like, then they would aspire to attend one after they finish high school. When the day of the field trip came, students learned about myths and facts surrounding college life. They also enjoyed a scavenger hunt to tour the campus led by SNHU Admissions student tour guides. Several students’ eyes lit up at all of the enormous possibilities across the small college campus. In particular, they seemed to like the possibility of creating their own clubs one day.
The final field trip activity was making posters of what college means to them, which was led by SNHU School of Education faculty and students. One student wrote on his poster, "When I grow up I want to be an engineer/scientist. I want to own my own company". This is merely one example of the excitement that was uncovered in our students. To top the day off, students enjoyed tons of pizza and mac and cheese (college food!). Throughout the day, countless students shared that they are excited to go to college. Many students even claimed that they want to go to SNHU! My expectations were not only met, but they were exceeded. The field trip truly warmed my heart, and I hope that we can continue to run programs like these for years to come. We know it is an important vision of the way Southern New Hampshire University interacts with the local community, and we are excited to help partner with them to do it!