Helping set big goals in young minds
Several Quakers join young students to teach skills on and off field
June 9, 2011, 2:44 am · Updated June 9, 2011, 12:00 am·
Yes, college is for young adults, but one school believes it’s never too early to start preparing.
On Tuesday, approximately 50 kindergarteners from Delaware College Preparatory Academy made a visit to Penn’s campus to get a taste of college life. The school, founded in 2007 and a part of the Teach For America program, focuses on college preparation and emphasizes to its children that attending college is a desirable and attainable goal.
“In the very beginning of the school year, we talk about college nonstop,” Executive Director Nita Roberson said. “We teach them right away the year in which they’ll graduate and the degrees that they’ll get so we hype up college constantly. Every single grade has at least one college trip that they go on so that they can get that exposure in addition to us hyping it up.”
On Tuesday, these particular kindergarten students — or “scholars,” as they are called at DCPA — received more than the typical campus tour. With the help of their teacher and Penn alumnus Margaretha Ehret, the scholars of homeroom “UPenn” had the opportunity to spend a portion of the afternoon meeting and playing with members of the Penn sprint football and field hockey teams at Franklin Field.
Ehret, a 2009 graduate, three-time letterwinner and two-time All-Ivy selection for the Quakers’ field hockey team, decided to include this time with the athletes as part of the visit with hopes of making the field trip a memorable and personal one for her students.
“A lot of these students, sometimes, don’t get much exposure outside of school and even their neighborhoods,” Ehret said. “Coming down and meeting a lot of the athletes shows them all the opportunities that college provides.”
The scholars received the traditional campus tour in the morning, making visits to several notable buildings around campus. After stopping for lunch at Houston Hall, they then made their way to Franklin Field where they split up — girls to field hockey and boys to football — and ran through drills and played games with the athletes.
Though the sun was beating down on them, the athletes ran back and forth with the children — now dressed in Penn Class of 2027 t-shirts — and went through every drill and game with them, only stopping periodically to dole out high fives and cheer on the young students.
After about an hour and a half, the players were out of breath and drenched in sweat but still clearly excited to have been able to spend time with the scholars.
“It was a lot of fun,” said First-team All-CSFL Linebacker Sam Biddle. “I think any time you can instill college at a young age is very important.”
“It’s so funny because working and coaching at this level, sometimes you lose sight of the fun component of it,” added field hockey coach Colleen Fink. “But this is just about exposing the kids and having a good time and it’s just bound to put a smile on your face.”
Before closing, the children lined up as the athletes autographed each child’s shirt, leaving them with something that Ehret hopes will serve not only as a souvenir, but also as a reminder of what the children are capable of.
“Coming here and showing the rest of the world that they want to go to college and that it’s a goal of theirs is just as important as having their own goal as well,” Ehret said. “They’re not going to remember all the degrees and not going to remember what year they’re going to graduate from college, but the one thing they will remember is that college is out there and that it’s important to go to.”
DCPA has made this trip to Penn each year since its inception and if the children’s beaming faces say anything about the success of the trip, it seems likely that there will be many more to come.
“We say everyday ‘I’m hungry for knowledge to get into college,’ and it’s a reminder that we went to Penn and it’s a goal of theirs to go, maybe not necessarily to Penn, but to college.”
Thanks to the efforts of Ehret and the other athletes, one day these students could be bringing the same hope to the young scholars of the future.