I’m Going to College

Yuma, AZ | Submitted by Lori Stofft

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How can ‘communities work together’ to open doors of opportunity for children?

How do colleges and universities make a ‘strategic investment’ to contribute to college completion rates?

How do we demonstrate to children that we are committed to ‘excellence for all’?

In Yuma and La Paz Counties, we bring 5th graders to college for a day and demonstrate to them that “I’m Going To College” is our expectation for them, and we watch the a-ha moment when they realize that they, too, can go to college.

This collaboration between Arizona Western College and Northern Arizona University Yuma Branch Campus was based on the simple idea that if you can get a kid on a college campus three times in their Kinder-12th grade career, the chances of them going to college anywhere skyrocket.

We developed a mini-college day that not only caters to 5th graders, but helps light the fire of desire for learning, achievement and excellence. The program is designed to demonstrate that the goal of a college education is possible. It puts the idea in their heads, the words in their mouths, and sets the expectation.

What students say:

  • I learned that college is… where people get their life started.
  • What I liked most was when I graduated. I felt proud.
  • I learned that college is about doing as good as you can. You have to pay a lot of attention.
  • I learned that college is… really important in my life. So I will start saving money for college.
  • I loved everything and I am sure I am going to college and I am not changing my mind.  Thank you for the best time ever.

What their classroom teachers say:

  • Loved the hands-on nature of the activities. The final ceremony really made the kids feel important.
  • Liked that students sat in actual classrooms with real college professors
  • This event strongly motivates kids to go to college

We host the program once each semester, reaching nearly 300 students a year, or over 1000 students since the program began.

The event also includes a tracking system, student workbook, and a rainbow of free t-shirts emblazoned with their anticipated college graduation date (“Class of 2023”).

Faculty from both schools volunteer to teach their subjects for a 5th grade audience. Students are typically treated to a schedule that includes at least one science and one career-tech class.

Elementary schools from around our 10,000 sq. mi. district are invited to participate on a rotating basis, and they contribute transportation, sack lunches, and adult chaperones, keeping the cost to the college low.

College student ambassadors “guide” the classes during their day, acting as role models, encouraging a little enthusiasm and spirit, and creating a powerful personal link to the college experience.

We leave them with the message that today is just the first step in their journey to college. Our goal is to remove the mystery and fear about college, and to make believers out of them.

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