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College Week gives life to students' dreams at Booker T. Washington Primary Academy


Travaughn Paschal, a senior linebacker at UK, spoke to second graders at Booker T. Washington Primary Academy about his experiences in school. (Photo provided)

 
By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward
 
During College Week at Booker T. Washington Primary Academy, youngsters learned about their teachers’ pursuit of a diploma, heard a UK football player stress the importance of academics, and banked advice from the president of Prairie View A&M University in Texas. Amid all the alma mater mascots and colorful pennants, the children perhaps could envision themselves walking onto a college campus someday.
 
“It gets them thinking about all kinds of different careers and all the possibilities college opens up for them,” said first-grade teacher Hannah Hughes.
 

First-grade teacher Hannah Hughes explained to her students how college is simply the next step along their educational path after elementary, middle and high school. (Photo provided)

First-grade teacher Hannah Hughes explained to her students how college is simply the next step along their educational path after elementary, middle and high school. (Photo provided)

College Week (Feb. 2-6) doubled as a celebration of Black History Month as BTW focused on historically black colleges and universities like Prairie View. The A&M president, George Wright, reminded second-graders that today’s actions and attitudes matter.
 
“You have to take steps all your life to prepare for college. You are learning things right now, such as paying attention to what your teachers tell you,” said Wright, who grew up in Lexington and attended the old Booker T. Washington Elementary.
 
He encouraged the children to always do their best and to dream big.
 
“Even though you’re only 8 years old, there is greatness inside of you. It will eventually shine,” Wright said. “If you have a dream or a goal, good for you. Then you can make your dream a reality. I can see in you all the possibilities to come.”
 
All week, BTW featured college trivia questions during the morning announcements. The kids also decorated college pennants, filled out mock applications, and talked about joining clubs and doing community service to become all-around good students.
 
“We’ve done lots of cool things, engaging things,” said Hughes, whose first-graders interviewed teachers and wrote explanatory pieces about why they should attend college one day.
 
Colleague Sarah Chumley also shared a little of her own story with her second-graders.
 
“We talked about different paths to college and what kinds of skills and determination it takes to make it through,” she said.
 
For instance, after attending the University of Kentucky for two years, Chumley left school when her son was born and went to work for Verizon. When the call center on Harrodsburg Road closed a few years ago, she returned to finish her education degree. She subbed for about a year and has taught at BTW since October 2013.
 
“Now I’m more seasoned and more grateful,” Chumley said. “My second stint at UK was a lot more productive. I was a little more focused and on point than in my first two years.”
 

Second-graders asked the UK senior a few questions, such as what's the hardest thing about being a college athlete (balancing football and classes) and what's his major (corporate communications). (Photo provided)

Second-graders asked the UK senior a few questions, such as what’s the hardest thing about being a college athlete (balancing football and classes) and what’s his major (corporate communications). (Photo provided)

Second-graders got a similar message from Travaughn Paschal, a senior linebacker at UK, who recalled starting off strong in elementary school and later allowing his grades to suffer because of distractions. By the time he straightened up in order to play football, he had to detour to prep school before enrolling at UK. Paschal encouraged the BTW youngsters to stick with a strong peer group.
 
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” he said. “Find someone smarter than you and hang out with them, and it’ll make you a better person in the end.”
 
Paschal also urged the kids to be diligent in their schoolwork and aim high.
 
“Stay on the right track and work hard. Don’t be content at being good at something – I want you to be great!” he said. “Find something that motivates you and work hard, and you can do anything.”
 
Chumley and her fellow teachers stress that college is within reach for each kid at BTW.
 
“College is not just a far-away dream,” she said. “It’s something tangible that they can work toward, and it’s not too early for them to be thinking in that direction.”
 
Whether playing basketball or drawing pictures, they can practice and progress toward a goal as 7- and 8-year-olds.
 
“It’s never too early to plant that seed that college is real,” Chumley said. “Regardless of your family background or how much money you make, college is a real possibility for everyone.”
 
Tammy L. Lane is communications specialist and website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.


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