Preparing for the future

Third grade students at Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School put together a college fair for their peers and family members.
Jan. 10, 2013 @ 06:12 AM

FOREST CITY— What is the proper age for students to start thinking about going to college? At Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School, it is third grade.

The McNair Educational Foundation is doing their part to get students thinking about college at an early age. Students involved in the High School Heroes program from East Rutherford High School worked with third grade students from Forest City-Dunbar to put together a college fair, which they presented to their peers and parents on Wednesday.

"It has been great today. This is the second year we have had the fair, so this year it has run a little smoother. This is a great tool for elementary schools kids to become aware of the possibilities. We want them to start thinking about those options and understand the things that they can do now to prepare," said Monica Lee, executive director of the McNair Foundation. "This is also good experience for the high school students. They get to learn leadership skills and others skills that they can use in the future. They really touch the elementary school students. You can see the immediate impact that they have when they go into the third grade classrooms."

For the fair, the students took surveys which were used to determine what type of careers they might be interested in pursuing. Based on those surveys, the students were split into groups and given the task of researching and developing a presentation on a college that would provide them with those opportunities. A total of 16 colleges were represented.

One group of students were interested in civil engineering, so they researched the University of South Carolina.

"I like to build stuff. I want to make the stuff I build for people comfortable," said third grade student Jabar Mayse. "I am going to play football and get the McNair Scholarship so that I can go."

East Rutherford student Matthew Hawkins worked with them.

"The group researched information and we made the board based on that information. They are very excited to share. Every time someone walks into the gym, their eyes light up. They want to tell all of the students and parents about what they have learned," Hawkins said.

Other schools represented included Western Carolina University, UNC Chapel Hill, A&T State University, Wake Forest University and UNC Greensboro.

"I want to go to UNC Greensboro because I want to be an artist," said third grade student Esmeralda Tzoe. "I like to draw and paint."

East Rutherford student Mary-Elizabeth Bennett, worked with her group on Clemson University.

"I love working with the kids. They have taught me so much about Clemson also. I want to work with kids in the future, so this is good experience for that," Bennett said.

According to Lee, third grade teacher Joy VanDyke is the reason that this event is possible.

"We contacted Joy VanDyke first when we had the idea to do this. She was very welcoming in allowing us to come into her classroom and she got the other teachers involved," Lee said.

VanDyke says her third graders love the interaction they get with the East Rutherford students.

"They have been doing well. It is an eye-opening experience for them. They have learned what they need to do to get into college one day. Plus, they love their high schoolers," VanDyke said.

The main goal of the college fair was to educate everyone involved.

"The third graders are learning about the schools, but the fourth and fifth graders are also learning through them," Lee said. "We are also trying to educate parents. So the third graders are doing that job for us with their presentations. We just want them all to be aware of their options for college."