Dec. 28, 2017 -- Last spring, Oxford teacher Kristie Marbury was dismayed to discover that one third of her 5th graders couldn’t name a single college or university. Her time with those students was coming to an end, as they prepared to move to middle school, but she rightly assumed that her next class of students would have a similar knowledge gap. And she set out to change that.
The current fifth grade classes Oxford have already researched colleges, written to colleges, and even visited colleges. Early in the fall, as they were setting goals for the year, students wrote introductory letters to a college of their choice, requesting information packets in return. They got much more than just information packets. Envelopes arrived from more than fifteen colleges in Ohio and across the country filled with bumper stickers, pennants, posters and t-shirts, now displayed on the class’ “We are going to college!” bulletin board.
They also went on a field trip to Kent State University, where a friend of Ms. Marbury serves as Dean of Students. They toured the campus, got a peak inside dorm rooms, and spoke with current students about their experiences.
Their exploration continued in December when they visited Heights Middle School, where the eighth grade AVID students hosted a College Fair. This was a culmination of AVID’s College Ready focus, with students creating display boards on the college of their choice. They also had to master their presentation and public speaking skills as classrooms of fourth and fifth graders from across the district visited the fair.
The three 5th grade classes from Oxford were among them. Ms. Marbury’s student Mykaila Davis was excited to learn about such a wide array of colleges, even though she already has her heart set on Case Western Reserve University. “One of my teachers told me that would be a good place to study computer engineering,” she said, while agreeing that she’d be happy to stay in Cleveland, close to her family.
Jerrelle Carter wants to go a little farther away and has his sights set on Duke University in North Carolina. “My mom said it’s a hard school to get into, so I want to show her I can do it,” he said.
He was surprised when he visited eighth grader Nashan Williams’ display about Duke and learned that the average SAT scores in math and reading are between 700 and 790. As Nashan said in the understatement of the year, “I heard that’s kinda hard.” He proceeded to give a pep talk to the fifth graders gathered around his table. “I mean, you gotta be really good. You gotta stay on your game.”
Fifth grader James Stewart is hoping to attend Kent State University. “When we visited, I learned what a great opportunity it is. It was surprising to see how much you can do there.” As he’s only 11, he has yet to nail down exactly what he wants to study, but is leaning toward a major in physics and a minor in writing. But then again, he might want to be a lawyer if he doesn't end up being a scientist. Good thing he has a few years left to decide.
The eighth grade students are a little closer to college and are increasingly aware of how their current actions will impact their future options. Melody Cole summed up the ultimate lesson that teachers were hoping to impart to their students, both those in fifth grade and those in eighth grade, when she said, “What you do right now in school…it follows you, to high school, to college and beyond.”