By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
When University of Michigan Wolverines Jake Butt, Shane Morris and Henry Poggi showed up in their Pattengill classroom last week, Lori Moizio’s third graders didn’t know there was an academic reason behind it.
They just knew it was really awesome.
The Wolverines talked about the importance of going to college, studying hard, and being disciplined both on and off the field.
“Jake Butt told us that when he injured his knee, he thought football was over for him,” recalled third grader Maren Brady. “But he exercised and did everything he could to make his knee feel better and then he was able to play again. He never gave up. I learned that college is hard, you will face challenges in life, but you have to work through them to be a better person and athlete, or whatever you want to be.”
And that’s just the kind of message Pattengill fifth grade teacher Avery Hubbard had in mind when she started a program two years ago called The Road to College for Kids, or ROCK.
“We wanted to get kids thinking about college early for two reasons”, explaining that the Equity Committee wanted to participate in the state’s Superintendent’s Dropout Challenge, and piggyback onto Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative.
We still have kids who have had noone in their family graduate from college—especially a four-year institution,” she said.
The first year of ROCK involved a series of talks, games and a video with the kids about college. Teachers were encouraged to wear T-shirts and sweatshirts from their alma maters.
The next year a University of Michigan professor, Dr. Stephen Ward, of African American studies brought his class of studentsfor a round table discussion to talk school and their college experience.
This year, Principal Melita Alston coordinated ROCK with the Equity Team, expanding the acronym to stand for Reaching out to Career and College Ready Kids.
She and the teachers invited parents and other adults to school to talk about career readiness and the importance of higher education.
“The biggest benefit is that elementary students actually have the opportunity to talk to college-age students as well as parents and other adults who are in the field about their career, and college options,” she said.
In another classroom, Mr. Frankel invited University of Michigan students, Daniel Stuhldreher and Diana Curtis to talk with the kids about college.
Stuhldreher is working with Pattengill for the Spring Youth Service Day, created as member of Alpha Phi Omega, a community service fraternity on campus.
“College is really important to me in furthering my education,” said Stuhldreher, “I wanted to give kids an opportunity about what college is like, and what’s important, and what skills they should work on for the next 10 years.”
“The kids definitely had lots of questions,” said Curtis. “I think it was exciting for them to start thinking of college now. One girl said that she really wants to go to college, so she’s going to work really hard in middle school and high school so she can get scholarships. So I think it’s great they’re thinking about it now, and they’re thinking about how what they’re doing right now will be important for college and their future.”
When Moizio asked her two U-M undergraduate teacher interns to speak to her class about college, she was delighted when they asked if they could invite three football players to attend with them.
“”It was so exciting to have these incredibly kind and humble athletes take the time to talk with the students about the skills necessary to prepare for college,” she said. “Their messages of hard work, perseverance and teamwork as qualities for success inspired the adults and kids alike.”