Fifth-Graders Attend Classes and a Mock Graduation Ceremony
The excitement was palpable as 254 fifth-graders from Catholic schools across the islands descended on campus to participate in the inaugural “I Go To College” event. Gathering at the Sullivan Family Library Lawn, 20 students from St. Theresa Honolulu were playing cornhole, spike ball and Jenga, as they waited for fellow students to arrive from St. Catherine, St. Anthony’s on Maui, St. Theresa Kauai, Holy Family Catholic Academy, Mary Star of the Sea, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Saint Louis, St. John Vianney, St. Joseph Parish School, and St. Joseph in Hilo. Chaminade President Dr. Lynn Babington welcomed the students, their teachers and chaperones to campus.
“This is all they could talk about yesterday and today on the bus,” said St. Theresa Honolulu fifth-grade teacher Alyssa Yabes of the students. “Some of them were even saying that they were going to graduate from college even before their older siblings.”
Started approximately 15 years ago on the mainland, the “I Go To College” program aims to expose 9-12-year-old students to higher education, even before they step onto a middle school campus. According to Llewellyn Young, Ph.D., superintendent of Hawaii Catholic Schools, this type of early exposure encourages these fifth graders to start thinking about attending college.
“I’ve seen the anecdotal results of these visits,” said Young, a former dean at Arizona Western, where “I Go To College” visits have taken place since 2010. “We want these kids to see that going to college isn’t such a far-fetched idea. It is achievable.”
Sitting across from each other during “What’s for Dinner? Setting an Interfaith Table” with Sister Malia Wong, Ph.D., Keslen Carroll and Julia Carlos from Holy Family Catholic Academy were enthusiastic about being on campus, both expressing that they plan to attend college.
“This is going to be a good day,” said Carlos, with a wide smile. “I’m not sure where I want to go college, but maybe Idaho University because I like the snow.”
A seven-year longitudinal study* of a college prep program for middle school students showed that “college visits were an integral part of the program.” Students who went on a campus visit had more positive perceptions of college than those who did not. Research also shows the importance of starting college and career planning, and awareness in middle school. Early exposure to a college campus makes a difference, especially among first-generation college-bound, and other underrepresented groups, which are an integral element to increase college enrollment and diversity on campus.
“We’re trying to make the transition from grade school to university as seamless as possible,” said Dr. Janet Davidson, Chaminade Vice Provost and Academic Affairs Professor, who helped organize the day’s event. “We’re hoping that these kids will continue with their education and with their Catholic journey.”
Before setting off on their campus tour, students were divided into eight groups, offering a more intimate setting to simulate the typical Chaminade class size. Class topics varied from “Landing on the Moon on Mars—An Engineering Design Challenge” and EDventures in Science: Water is Life” to “Agriculture and Food Waste” and “Pocket Sharks & Water Bears: An Introduction to Biodiversity.”
“By the time they’re in grade eight or nine, it’s almost too late to spark their interest in college,” Young said. “We’re collaborating with Chaminade in a way that we’ve never collaborated in the past. When I approached Drs. Babington and Askildson about ‘I Go to College,’ they were thrilled, and immediately said yes. This is our pilot year and we’re already talking about how to refine it for next year.”
Students ended the day with a “graduation” ceremony at Mamiya Theatre with Dr. Lynn Babington and Chaminade Provost Dr. Lance Askildson presenting them with certificates.
“You are now part of our Silversword ‘ohana,” Babington told students. “I hope you learned a lot after completing your first full day of college.”
*Research in Middle Level Education, Rich A. Radcliffe & Liz C. Stephens, 2008
Fifth-graders attended classes, toured the campus and participated in a mock Commencement during “I Go To College” event, which aims to expose 9-12-year-old students to higher education.