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Area third-graders given college experience at MCLA

12/05/2013- The Berkshire Eagle

NORTH ADAMS -- The future arrived on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' campus at around 9:30 Wednesday morning.

One hundred-forty third-graders from northern Berkshire County stepped off buses bubbling with energy, curiosity and lots and lots of questions.

The annual third-grade college visit is sponsored by the Berkshire Compact initiative, which aims to create pathways from birth to college for all county residents. The program, led this year by about 20 facilitators, included abbreviated college tours, mini-courses, guest speakers, demonstrations, lunch from nearby Angelina's Subs and MCLA swag.

From the moment she sat down to take in a presentation called "World of Stories," Brayton Elementary School third-grader Evandia Goodermote was hooked. She told The Eagle that she's an aspiring book writer who is currently working on a retelling of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" for her class.

Roseanne Denhard, professor of English and communications, and MCLA senior Amanda Olsen presented the workshop, during which they solicited ideas of how stories are shared from the Brayton students; the children's responses ranged from books and text messaging to oral histories and writing letters.

"I thought they were great. I looked at some of my friends' faces while they were talking and they looked inspired, which I hope they are inspired so that they would want to read some of my writing," Goodermote said after the presentation.

Asked whether she thought college studies are important, the astute third-grader said, "If you don't want to be in college, that's fine. It's your choice because you will be a grown-up then. But if you go to college, you can have a better job and a better life, and your kids will look up to you for going." 

Joshua Mendel, MCLA's senior associate director of admission and the coordinator of the third-grade visit, said this year's program objective is to convince students that "staying in school, working hard and listening to their teachers" will provide them more options and opportunities in the future.

This year's visit also expanded to include workshops such as the "World of Stories," as well as foreign language and culture, and the Starlab inflatable planetarium, in addition to other annual presentations: television production, chemistry, athletic training, fine and performing arts and physics.

Fifth-year elementary education student Sarah Fuller, who specializes in the study of Spanish and music, taught third-graders about the music, dance, ecology and languages -- there are 28 dialects spoken -- of Costa Rica.

"I'm hoping they get a little bit of everything out of this, and that it gets their minds moving," Fuller said.

MCLA senior psychology major and campus ambassador Ashley White has ushered third-grade tours for her four years at college.

"I hope we have a positive influence on them and help them understand that they can go to college, and that it's not just about books and academics. There are a lot of different kinds of opportunities here," she said.