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Kindergarteners walk into their future on campus

October 2, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. — More than 1,600 kindergarteners learned what college life is like first-hand Friday, at the fourth annual Walk into my Future event at Indiana University Kokomo.

The future doctors, paleontologists, zookeepers, and teachers explored careers at outdoor stations manned by more than 300 volunteers. They colored fingerprints with criminal justice faculty, practiced listening to their own heartbeats with nursing students, took a pretend business trip with School of Business faculty, and watched chemistry students create an active volcano with vinegar and baking soda, among other activities.

Northwestern teacher Darvenia Smith watched her ecstatic kindergarteners as they gave mascot Kingston Cougar high fives.

“They will tell you this is just the best day ever,” she said. “I love this opportunity to let them learn outside the classroom. They love doing hands on and experiencing new things, and this is a great opportunity for that. When they can touch and feel something, rather than looking and listening, they learn by leaps and bounds.”

While the stations — which also included playing with a giant multicolored parachute, looking at ticks and fleas under a microscope, playing games, and listening to stories — may have appeared to be all fun and games, there was a message behind the event. 

It’s never too early to start thinking about college.

“Today, we introduce them to college, and show them what that looks like, and what that feels like,” said Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke. “It’s our mission to lift this region up. To do that, we have to have more people with college degrees. This is where we begin having that conversation.”

IU Kokomo partnered with the United Way of Howard County, the Kokomo Family YMCA, and the Community Foundation of Howard County to start the conversation, as part of the Howard County Promise program.

United Way President Abbie Smith said her goal is for the event to “lay a base of hopefulness” for the children.

“I think one of the best things we can do is build hope and growth mindsets for our kids, so they believe they can achieve anything they want to achieve,” she said. “We have the whole community mobilizing around our youngest neighbors.”

This year, the event also included 400 students from Clinton and Carroll counties.

Karie Cloe, principal of Frankfort’s Blue Ridge Primary School, attended with her school’s kindergartners, and said it was the culmination of their College Go Week.

“It’s a chance for us to take our kids to see a college campus, and it’s a great time for them to see what college is all about, and think about their futures,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to see what options are available to them out there. It will be exciting to hear what they share about the day.”

Blue Ridge student Parker Martinez, a future doctor, said the chemistry demonstration was his favorite part.

IU Kokomo students Brandon Wysong, James Nester, and Tifany Burnett started with a light blue cup of cabbage juice, and asked the children in front of them to guess what color it might turn if they added ammonia. Several shouted out guesses, and a small girl squealed with delight when it turned pick.

“I was right,” she hollered, jumping up and down.

The children applauded when Nester combined baking soda and vinegar to create a bubbling volcano.

“This is an easy way to show kids chemistry, because they physically see things changing,” he said. “The volcano is always their favorite part.”

Northwestern kindergartners Aerie Foreman and Shaleigh Myers were excited to meet the Cougar mascot, and to see what it’s like to go to college. They both know college is important for their futures.

“We can get smarter there,” said Foreman, while Myers added, “College teaches you more words.”

As part of the Howard County Promise, each child’s parents may open a CollegeChoice 529 savings account, and the Community Foundation of Howard County will put the first $25 in the account. When the child’s family, or supporters, add $25 to the account, he or she will receive another $75 through a community match.

Children in kindergarten who have a college savings account of $1 to $500 are four times more likely to go to college than those who do not. For children from low- to moderate-income families, it increases the odds by seven times.

For more information, go to howardcountypromise.org.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 10/02/2018