Encouraging Young Students to go to College


Although MCLA doesn't see many incoming students from California, the Golden State one day just might be represented by the elementary school student who recently made some new friends on campus. And, it would appear he's spreading the word about MCLA to his class.

The student, a fifth-grader named Elijah who attends Woodlake Elementary School in Sacramento, Calif., wrote to MCLA as part of a class letter-writing assignment designed to magnify their perceptions about college and the 50 states. Each student wrote to colleges and universities across the country to ask for more information and a T-shirt.

According to Elijah's teacher, Lisa Liss, it's important that her students reach out to higher education.

"As a teacher in a 95 percent poverty school, too often my students think that college is for other people, not them. I wanted a way to get my students motivated to research colleges and universities and get them excited about their chance to attend college," Liss said.

"They know that richer, more affluent schools have much more than their school has. They start to set the path that they won't be able to attend college by this age," she explained. "Many of my parents have already informed their child that college is beyond their means. I want them to know that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to achieving."

Elijah could not have picked a better campus to contact: MCLA understands the importance of encouraging students at a young age to attend college. Each spring, the campus hosts "Berkshire County Goes to College," when about 1,100 elementary and middle school students visit colleges and universities across the Berkshires to raise their awareness of college.

According to MCLA admissions counselor Devin Kibbe '11, while it's important for students of every age to learn about college, it's particularly vital for fifth- and sixth-graders.

"That's when they're starting to see transitions in school. If you're looking at the fifth or sixth grade level, they're completing their elementary school and looking toward middle school," Kibbe said. "They are starting to think about the big picture and what they have to do to transition to middle school, and learning very practical skills to go on to high school. It's important to get them thinking about going to college, so that once they get to high school, it's not as overwhelming."

When the students began the project, Elijah didn't think anyone would respond to him.

"It was great that MCLA sent me a T-shirt and sunglasses for everyone," Elijah said. "It makes me want to attend college, maybe even MCLA."

Liss said many schools do not reply to the children, and that MCLA exceeded their typical response.

"Sometimes colleges send brochures, sometimes banners. Sometimes we hit gold and they send a shirt. The Oscars go to those colleges like MCLA who send shirts and sunglasses for everyone, or something especially fun," she said.

"Parents have come in and told me that their children are excited about the possibility of attending college," Liss continued. "It has motivated my students to check out colleges in other states to see which one they might like to attend."