Author: Elizabeth Figueroa
True or False: College Day isn’t very useful for children seven years or younger.
If you aren’t entirely sure how to answer that, take into consideration the general knowledge of several studies showing that simply speaking to children as often as possible will help them do well academically.
Next, take into consideration statistics of schools in CommUniverCity’s service area. On average, downtown schools have a student population where approximately 90% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 85% are English Learners and 10% have some type of learning disability.
Finally, take into consideration that many parents of these students work more than one job and have difficulty making time for a concerted effort to help their children develop practical academic skills. Many parents are new to the country or didn’t finish high school and don’t understand the importance of encouraging their children to make education an important focus.
In Downtown San Jose, College Day is not only useful to children under seven years old. It is vital for students of all ages and for a bright future. It is a simple concept that can change the trajectory of students who live in areas that present them with many quality of life obstacles. When students have role models from outside their school telling them college is important, they’ll begin to know at a young age, maybe even before 7 years of age, that there is not a question about whether or not to go to college. Instead, the conversation will revolve around the type of college that will best help them reach their achievements.
College Day 2014 took many shapes in Downtown San Jose on Friday, October 10.
Sammy Spartan and the SJSU Cheer Team
As has been tradition since the inception of College Day, SJSU Athletics collaborated with CommUniverCity to make College Day extra amazing at five schools.
To close out College Week with high spirits at their school, Olinder Elementary invited the SJSU Cheer Team to talk about their lives as regular students as well as athletes. They talked about commitment and the difference between high school athletics and college athletics. While many of these Olinder Owls have a ways to go before their Freshman Year, this outdoor rally has given the entire school something to look forward to.
Elsewhere, Sammy Spartan brightened the day of many students at four other San Jose Schools. He posed for pictures and gave countless hi-fives to unsuspecting students. Sammy serves a different function at different school levels. In elementary and middle schools, students ask who he is and it starts a conversation about college mascots and athletics in college. In high schools, he livens the atmosphere simply with his appearance. At all levels, the students are reminded that Sammy Spartan goes to college and are told they can go too.
Campus + Library Tour
Olinder Elementary also took eighty 4th graders to SJSU’s campus. They started their morning with a pep talk from Provost Andy Feinstein, Interim Vice President Renee Barnett Terry, and Director of Government and Community Relations Fernanda Karp. Questions from the students may seem trivial to someone who’s gone through the entire college process, but to 4th graders, the question about food is a vital one. The important point, as mentioned below, is that they were asking questions and an experienced college alumni was able to answer them. The students were given cookies and stickers and continued to a Legacy Campus Tour led by Cesar Chavez Community Action Center Tour Guide and SJSU student Arronoel Rosellon.
After learning about SJSU’s history of social justice, the students went on a library tour led by Nancy Buckles, the Youth Services Librarian at Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Many students were impressed by the artwork and the view from the 8th floor. Samson So of The Spartan Daily captured what the students enjoyed most about the tours. To end the day, students heard about services available through the Educational Opportunity Program on campus from Crystal Cooper.
Speakers Inspire (and are inspired!)
For this year’s College Day, CommUniverCity gave itself the challenge of placing as many speakers in downtown classrooms as possible. The end result: 150 speakers volunteering 750 hours reached 2,100 students in 103 classrooms across 13 schools with an added value to the community of $17, 250.
The group with the biggest contribution are 60 SJSU Freshmen from an EDCO 004 College and Career Exploration course. Most of these students are first generation students themselves. Many couldn’t believe that even though only a few years ago they were just like the kids they were presenting to, they still had the ability to inspire and motivate these students. And they did. They worked extremely hard at their public speaking and visual aids that shared their personal stories. Other groups who adopted schools were ALMAS de SJSU, Lamda Sigma Sorority, and City of San Jose Environmental Services Department.
After all was said and done, the diversity of speakers was impressive. Some were very passionate about college, some did it for fun, some did it for extra credit and some wish this existed when they were in school. One speaker had been waiting for this opportunity for some time:
“I definitely believe College Day makes an impact in Santa Clara County because it motivated me to go to college. I remember when I was in middle school and high school that college students would go to motivate us to go to college. Every time they came, I would tell myself that I would do the same thing when I went to college. And I have 🙂 Thank you!”
Depending on the grade level speakers presented to, some were impressed at how prepared students were with their questions and others melted at how cute some of the questions were. The important part: the students were asking questions about college! This alone is a great indicator that the first four years of College Day have had some type of impact in schools. These days, schools don’t just celebrate College Day; the celebrate College Week!
Many speakers feel this is very much a worthwhile event that should receive a lot of press, that it should grow, be replicated and that it’s great for community engagement.
Family and Community Engagement Conference
CommUniverCity’s projects focus on three areas. One of them is education, which makes College Day a perfect fit. Another area of focus is neighborhood environment. Neighborhood environment can be anything from building social capital through community events like Safe and Green Halloween to civic engagement where neighbors meet on a monthly basis. Where possible, we place volunteers with neighbors during these events to show them the importance of being a proud neighborhood volunteer.
During the Family and Community Engagement Conference, CommUniverCity reached out to high school and middle school volunteers. Some of them are required to do volunteer hours in order to graduate and some are not. We learned a lot about them and they (and their parents) learned about us.
Overall, the conference was the much more in depth arm of College Day. Workshops were held by industry experts on obtaining scholarship and financial aid information, a live senior lab was open to high school senior who were able to apply to their preferred colleges on site with the help of admissions representatives and hundreds were inspired by Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch’s speech about the importance of a degree.
- To learn more about College Day and it’s sponsors and supporters: www.collegeday.org
- To see more photos of College Day and other CommUniverCity projects, visit our Flickr account