My daughter went to college this week. She’s only 9, but she did well! Built a structure that would withstand a 500-year wave and tested it in the world’s largest tsunami research center, created both endothermic and exothermic reactions in the chemistry laboratory, and even ate with the big kids in the college cafeteria.
Mrs. Renz, Mrs. Zistel and Mr. Morton are taking every 4th grader at Tom McCall Elementary to college this year in the hopes that it will expand the opportunities for many of them for whom college is not a part of their family’s regular vocabulary. And research seems to back them up: students who visit college campuses early in their education are more likely to attend college when they’re older.
But it’s not just a one day field trip (which, by the way, Mrs. Renz told me didn’t cost them anything except bus costs and meal cards. Look into it at your local college or university! OSU was super organized with multiple activities, tour guides and outreach programs! (Perhaps they’ve read the research, too!)) The 4th grade experience is rooted in college themes all year long. I’m thrilled, not because I worried that Johanna wouldn’t pursue a post-secondary degree, but because many of her classmates would otherwise never be exposed to the possibility.
I sat by the president of a community college at a recent event at which I spoke, and she said that one of the biggest obstacles for many students is their family. Parents who didn’t attend university are often scared that they will essentially lose their children. Lose them to a different geographical area, a different socio-economic class, or simply lose the ability to relate to them.
This struck me as an interesting thought, because I assumed that all parents would want the highest possible education for their children. But it’s not always the case. This is something that we need to address at the K-12 level as we encourage and prepare students for the 21st century economy in which a college degree is really just the starting point.
I’m convinced, Jen’s convinced, and so were the other 21 parents who helped to chaperone the field trip. With support like that, the future looks bright for these kids!