KOKOMO, Ind. — Liam Castillo and Kamdyn Earl plan to be police officers when they grow up. Ellie McBee hasn’t decided on her future career, while Kara DeGraffenreid dreams of being Frozen queen Elsa.
They were among 1,000 Howard County kindergartners who glimpsed at their futures as college students Friday (October 2), with a visit to Indiana University Kokomo.
IU Kokomo partnered with the United Way of Howard County and the Kokomo Family YMCA to start the Howard County Promise program, and to host the first-ever “Walk Into My Future” event, attended by kindergarteners from all of the county’s public schools.
At the event, children rotated among nearly two-dozen educational stations, staffed by campus students, faculty, and staff.
These kindergartners, the first Howard County Promise class, jumped into the air, shouting “Arriba!” at a Spanish language station, bandaged a pretend broken arm with allied health staff, heard a Clifford the Big Red dog story from future teachers, peered into a telescope with a physics faculty member, sang with a music instructor, and toured the campus.
While they were having fun, the goal is to begin the process of thinking about going to college.
Cathy Valcke, director of external relations and public affairs, said Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke is committed to bringing school children to campus, as part of an effort to promote degree attainment in north central Indiana.
“We look at this as a good long-term investment in all the youth in our region,” Valcke said. “We want them to progress through school, always knowing college is attainable.”
Besides encouraging the students to think about college, Howard County Promise offers the start of college savings. 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. They can then ask five “champions,” relatives, friends, or any adults in their lives, to donate at least $5.29 to the account. When five people have contributed to the account, they will receive another $75 through a community match.
A child with a college savings account in his or her name is seven times more likely to attend college. A child who has designated school savings from $1 to $499 is more than four and a half times more likely to graduate from college than a child with no savings account.
For more information, go to howardcountypromise.org
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.