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Students Roger McMillan and Kate Buckley present to Ms. Jennifer’s Spartan Keyes CORAL Moves program, while CommUniverCity’s Special Programs Manager, Elizabeth Figueroa, spectates.

College. It’s not a topic that a typical elementary student would think about. However, it’s never too late to get a head start.

In late October, CommUniverCity took a lead role in the 11th Annual College Day. During College Day, SJSU students are connected to various Downtown San Jose elementary school classrooms to share their personal college journeys and give presentations about the importance of attending college. The goal of their presentations is to inspire the youth to pursue, or at least consider, higher education.

97 community-engaged learners delivered presentations to 940 elementary youth across 45 classrooms at 6 schools and program sites. In all, approximately 970 service learning hours have been invested in this effort.

While it may seem like a lot of time invested, it is only a drop in the bucket for students living in underserved communities where less than half of residents have earned a Bachelor’s degree. 

“If parents don’t have their own college experiences to pull from, imagine what it might do for kids to hear from current college students year after year,” said Elizabeth Figueroa, CommUniverCity’s Special Programs Manager and College Day lead since the inception of College Day.

For a few years, a handful of SJSU presenters have revealed that they recall participating in College Day events at schools like Olinder Elementary where 5th Grade Teacher Felicia Tan led a morning assembly full of chants and excitement. Caitlynn, current college student, previous College Day participant, and one of this year’s presenters, remembers it vividly.

It’s crazy to think about how a small event in one’s academic youth experience has come back to them just over a decade later.

After hearing first-hand stories from college students, the elementary students were asked in an assessment survey about how they felt about going to college, in which 42% of them answered that they wanted to “work on getting ready for college.”

Was the result surprising? Nope! Many SJSU students who presented for College Day 2021 experienced a similar situation where the classroom full of students asked several questions after the presentation was over.

“I loved the participation of the students because they were fearless when answering. They were always confident about what they were sharing. It is always intimidating to answer a question when one doesn’t know the answer, but I was glad to hear all the students share their answers and thoughts.”

-Abigail Ramirez, 3rd year Chemistry major

Matthew Spadoni, an SJSU student in the Environmental Studies program, also expressed that he spent roughly 15 minutes answering eager questions from the participating Elementary students.

The #1 question received? “Is college expensive?”

While the young students learned that college can come with a hefty price tag, they also learned that there are resources that can help with paying for going to school, such as FAFSA or scholarships

This year’s College Day, although held online, has left an impact on both the college and elementary students. CommUniverCity is looking forward to hearing more stories about how College Day comes full circle with the future years to come!

College Day started 11 years ago with Dana Bunnett of Kids and Common and has been recently led by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation and currently, the Santa Clara County Office of Education. CommUniverCity is very proud to be part of this local tradition.

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