I Have a Dream Oregon hosts second College Day at Alder Elementary

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Quincy Brice, a kindergarten student in Katie Metko's class at Alder Elementary School, takes part in a game in which students examine papers scattered on the floor, looking for nine pieces of paper that have illustrations of animals dressed in the clothes of different professions. The other papers on the floor contained pictures of assorted animals. After all nine photos were found, the students discussed the different professions. It was part of College Day at the school.

Kinder, kinder, what’s your number?” the adults cheered.

“20... 20... 2030,” kindergarten students screamed, their elder classmates following with their respective grades and college graduation years.

“Alder, Alder, where are you going?”

“College, college! College! College! College!”

Alder Elementary School’s enthusiasm was contagious Friday as “I Have a Dream” Oregon hosted its second College Day at the school with six nearby colleges and universities.

“We are really trying to plant the seed early for our dreamers that college is possible for them,” said Shyvonne Williams, the Dreamer School program manager at Alder through “I Have a Dream” Oregon. “We’re really wanting them to think about what they’re passionate about and how they can turn that into careers — to expose kids to colleges that are local.”

At Alder, 95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced school lunches, making it the second-highest poverty-level school in Oregon. The elementary school — part of the Reynolds School District — became the first Dreamer School in the nation in 2010.

Through “I Have a Dream” Oregon, Dreamer students from low-income communities are supported into high school and beyond, with the goal of helping them pursue post-secondary education and economic independence in adulthood.

Many of the students will become the first in their families to attend college. As a Dreamer School, Alder has a goal for all of its students to eventually graduate high school, with 80 percent earning a college degree or post-high school certificate.

At College Day, kids asked older students, teachers and other ambassadors all about college, played games related to career paths and took home college T-shirts.

Some of the students will go on to school right in their backyard. Mt. Hood Community College “adopted” the fourth grade class, bringing them red shirts with “Future College Graduate” written on it. The fourth-graders signed a pledge banner they would complete college.

In Anatoliy Andrukhovich’s first-grade class, students learned about nursing, psychology, firefighting and computer science with Portland Community College ambassadors.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Mitch Thornburg and Robert Williams talk to students in Anatoliy Andrukhovich's first grade class about their firefighting classes at Portland Community College.

“I used to be a firefighter, but now I teach,” said Doug Smith, gesturing to the next generation of firefighters, Mitch Thornburg and Robert Williams. “They are the ones taking care of me, and when they get old, you’ll take care of them.”

Students oohed and aahed when a student named Anthony said he was learning how to create video games and they loved the idea of helping people through nursing.

“My girls already know their dream jobs,” said Lacey Young, a volunteer mentor in the first-grade class with Friends of the Children. “It’s important for them to see it’s possible to achieve those jobs and that college is a way to help.”

By the end of elementary school, students will have been “adopted” by each college and university. Other participating schools include Concordia University, Linfield College, Pacific University, Portland State University and Lewis & Clark College.

Along with College Day, representatives from partner colleges and universities tutor students and offer hands-on programs, such as a dental presentation by MHCC. In the spring, students will visit their partner schools.

In addition, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University partner with Alder, interacting with students via Skype sessions throughout the year.

“This is part of a larger partnership — an ongoing relationship and commitment to Alder,” said Fawn Livingston-Gray, interim coordinator for Student Leaders for Service at Portland State University. “I know it’s really special, especially, to some of our staff members who are first generation college students.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Portland State University student Sarah Ni holds a card of an elephant dressed as a fireman while discussing the role of a firefighter with kindergarten students at Alder Elementary on Friday, Oct. 25. Representatives of various colleges came to the school for College Day.

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