|Fourth and fifth graders from Oliver Beach Elementary School visited Towson University in January 2007.|
Learning that you can pick your own classes in college and how far you have to walk from one building to another were just two of dozens of discoveries for the 170 fifth-grade students from Seneca and Dundalk elementary schools and the 88 fourth and fifth graders from Oliver Beach Elementary School who spent a day in January touring Towson University.
Through field trips, guest speakers, pep rallies, and research projects, elementary schools in the southeast – and throughout the Baltimore County – encourage elementary school students to begin thinking about and planning for college. Similar college awareness activities take place at elementary, middle, and high schools countywide and complement the school system’s initiative to offer all students meaningful, rigorous coursework to prepare them for success in college, careers, and life.
|College student Alan Thompson makes a presentation to students during Berkshire Elementary School’s College Awareness Day program, held December 15, 2006.|
“It is too late to wait until middle or high school to begin talking to students about college as an option,” says Southeast Area Assistant Superintendent Jean Satterfield. “I have asked all of the elementary schools in our area to do more college awareness activities. Some are doing very simple things like having school faculty wear their college sweatshirts on a particular day. Many others are developing more extensive initiatives such as college visits or welcoming visiting professors.”
College is in their future
According to Satterfield, southeast-area elementary students have visited the Community College of Baltimore County, Loyola College, Morgan State University, and Towson University. “Visiting the campuses allows students to really ‘see’ themselves in those settings and to see that college is in their future,” Satterfield says. “Research shows that taking students to visit college campuses can expand their vision of what is possible.”
|Fifth graders from Seneca Elementary School visited Towson University in January 2007.|
She continues, “This is especially important in our area because of the economic changes here. The industries and jobs that used to exist in Sparrows Point, jobs that could sustain families, no longer exist. We have to help our students – many of whom will be the first in their families to go to college – to see what else is on the horizon.”
Melanie McHale, guidance counselor at Oliver Beach, adds, “We know that all of our parents want their sons and daughters to have all the opportunities they would want for themselves if they were growing up today.”
|On April 4, 2007, Sandalwood Elementary School held its first College Awareness Day.|
The tangible benefits of a college education
Colgate Elementary School Principal Kevin Connelly agrees. “At our school,” he notes, “a relatively low percentage of parents have degrees, so many of the students don’t have college aspirations. When we explain to our students that the average worker with a college degree makes more than $50,000 a year compared to less than $30,000 for someone with only a high school education, that makes the importance and power of a college degree more tangible for them.”
Berkshire Elementary School counselor Mary Gardill notes that, at the direction of Principal Dorothy Justice, school staff members now consistently talk to students about how they will need to prepare for “when” they will go to college, not “if” they will go to college
Click on the links below for highlights of some of college awareness activities in southeast area elementary schools:
Story by Diana L. Spencer, communications officer. Photos courtesy of the schools.