Fifth graders experience campus life for a day
Trying to explain Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ (“Praise be to you,” a quotation from St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Creatures”) to 12-year-old kids in a university environment is no easy task. Yet, Bro. Ed Brink, S.M. comfortably stood in front of a group of Sacred Hearts Academy, and St. Theresa and St. Elizabeth students and started his discussion with a simple question: have you ever received a birthday card in the mail?
Raising her hand, Charlie Yim screamed out “from my auntie.” Sitting next to Yim, fellow Lancer, Camryn Abe, echoed the same response. In fact, every student had received a card, either from an auntie or a grandparent. Some even said they had received letters, which was the perfect segue for Brink to ask his second question: Why do we send cards and letters?
Surely enough, students answered with “to let us know they care for us and they love us.” It was a response that could not have been any better scripted than if Brink had pre-written the answer himself. After all, the Pope’s 184-page encyclical letter—Laudato Si’— focuses on care for the natural environment and all people, as well as broader questions of the relationship among God, humans and the Earth. The encyclical’s subtitle, “Care for Our Common Home,” reinforces these key themes.
“Pope Francis’ encyclicals are letters to the people,” said Brink, Vice President of Mission and Rector. “They are letters to show his care and love for the people. Earth is God’s gift to us, and it belongs to everyone, but it needs our protection and immediate attention.”
After shuffling slides of a PowerPoint presentation, Brink handed out sheets of a word search puzzle that contained vocabulary that directly pertained to the environment and sustainability. Working together in groups of seven, students eagerly searched for words in the puzzle, circling “recycle” along a diagonal path and “earth” along a vertical column.
The exercise wasn’t lost on the students who were part of a cohort of 166 fifth graders who visited campus to experience college life. Now in its second year, “I Go 2 College” is a partnership between Chaminade University and Hawaii Catholic Schools.
“The I Go 2 College event exceeded my expectations,” said Llewellyn Young, Ph.D., superintendent of Hawaii Catholic Schools. “Our preliminary surveys showed that all stakeholders including teachers, parents and students were very satisfied with the experience.
“Anecdotally, several parents called my office when we did our first event last spring to tell me that they thought the program was brilliant and inspiring,” Young continued. “Parents spoke with such enthusiasm. One parent told me that her son talked about it for a few weeks. He never mentioned college before the experience, but now he can’t wait to go.”
St. Theresa students, Heaven Lee and Katelin Nitta, and Sacred Hearts’s Lauren Schofield and Kiara Cruz all plan to attend university, and Chaminade may be their choice. The four fifth graders said this college experience was “fun—even with all the up-and-down hikes.”
Attending for a second year, St. Theresa fifth-grade teacher Alyssa Yabes said last year’s students “really enjoyed it a lot.” “They kept talking that they loved going to college,” she said. “All the hiking, they told me, was worth it.”
Started approximately 16 years ago, the “I Go To College” program aims to introduce 9-12-year-old students to higher education, even before they step onto a middle school campus. “The purpose of this program is to expose the students to college life at an early age and to provide them with a day that is fun and eye-opening,” said Kim Baxter, Director of Early College programs at Chaminade. “Additionally, one benefit to offering visit opportunities for younger students is that when they return as juniors or seniors, the students will be better prepared to participate in traditional campus visit programs.”