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Teachers and staff showed their true colors on College Day at Harrison Elementary. Decked out in University of Kentucky jerseys, BCTC and Transy T-shirts and others, they took time to share a sampling of their college experience in encouraging the youngsters to aim high for their future.
“You have to be really disciplined. Your reading log, for instance, is building you up for college,” Principal Tammie Franks noted when she stopped by a fourth-grade classroom. “We need people to do every job out there, but if you’re not a good student, you don’t have as many choices.”
Second-grade teacher Kim Binzer told of how she earned a degree in electrical engineering, dabbled in middle school science and wound up teaching elementary school. Her perspective and priorities changed after she volunteered to help with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.
“College is possible for anybody, but you have to start now and keep your grades up,” she reminded her class.
The teachers made posters and banners to illustrate their college days, with photos of roommates and dorms, school mascots and symbols, and other aspects that piqued the children’s interest. One of Eastern Kentucky University featured a yellow brick road with students along the path leading from Harrison to college.
Students also added to the displays, listing various career choices and tips on how to prepare now, such as:
• Never give up.
• Work hard in class.
• Have faith in yourself, and set goals.
Former UK linebacker Brandon Thurmond, who made the SEC academic honor roll, illustrated for second-graders how perseverance can make a difference. After an ACL injury sidelined him from football, Thurmond pressed on to finish his degree. Now he’s back at UK working on a master’s.
Down the hall, teacher Shital Patel gave her fourth-graders a pep talk and showed them her diplomas for psychology, elementary education and instructional leadership.
“College is hard, but it’s doable,” said Patel, who explained that she chose the University of Illinois because she liked the big-city location and the programs it offered.
“College is also expensive, but there are ways to make it work,” she added, sharing how although she earned scholarships, she still had to take out student loans.
At one in-state school, money is not a problem: Berea College charges no tuition in exchange for students working on campus.
Berea alumna Reena Connelly and a pair of colleagues who graduated from UK highlighted their schools through PowerPoint and website examples, comparing the different atmospheres and academic options. Her fifth-graders also raised a lot of questions, from the college application process to classroom rules and dorm life.
“We got to emphasize responsibility, and where they want to go and what they want to do,” Connelly said. “They can see that the choices they make now do matter.”