KOKOMO, Ind. – More than 1,500 future police officers, basketball players, scientists, doctors, teachers, and nurses experienced college life for the first time, at the annual Walk into My Future event.
Hosted by Indiana University Kokomo, in partnership with the Kokomo Family YMCA and the United Way of Howard County, the event starts the conversation about going to college while the children are in kindergarten and first grade, and encourages parents to start saving.
Cathy Valcke, director of external relations and public affairs, said it supports the campus’s core mission, of increasing the number of people with college degrees in north central Indiana.
“Since you can only become what you see, or have awareness of, the purpose of Walk into My Future is to have children see themselves on a college campus at a very early age,” she said.
The children, from 14 elementary schools in Howard County, three from Clinton County, and one from Carroll County, arrived by school bus, and were greeted by volunteers, applauding, cheering, and offering high fives.
At educational stations, they peered through a telescope, shrieked with excitement as they ran under a parachute, listened to their own heartbeat through a stethescope, and colored fingerprints in an imaginary crime lab, getting a taste of the many career options college offers.
Future scientist Zaydriana Johnson, from Northwestern Elementary, was excited to look through a microscope, and to see models of animal skeletons. College is important because “you can learn something,” she said.
Her classmate Grayson Hughes enjoyed the campus tour. He wants to go to college “to learn something, and to play basketball.”
The tour was a big hit with most of the class, according to their teacher, Sheena Shoaff.
“One of our friends walked into the building and said, ‘I can’t wait to go to college,’” she said. “They get really excited to be here. It gets them thinking about the future, which is fun.”
Volunteers from the Office of Student Life and Campus Diversity led children through a treasure hunt, digging through tubs of squishy orange beads to find items hidden there, and match them to a map.
“This is a premier opportunity for the kindergartners to see our campus and everything we offer here,” said Kate Aguilar, coordinator of student life and campus diversity. “We tried to think through ways they can have fun and engage, but while they are doing it, we can talk to them about college.”
The lessons began before the children arrive on campus.
Brian Jakes, a teacher from Elwood Haynes Elementary, prepared his kindergartners for the day by talking about what they might want to do when they grow up.
“We talked about careers, and about how they have to go to college for many of these careers,” he said. “They see these careers they want to do, and you can’t get there unless you do the work in school. They know they have to follow through and do well so they can go on to college to get where they want to go.”
Delphi Elementary first grader Reaghan Michael enjoyed learning about broadcasting careers, and also liked a chemistry demonstration, watching solutions change color when new liquids were added.
She plans to be a mom and a doctor, and said college is important because “you have to learn more stuff than you do when you’re a little kid.”
Trish Severns, CEO of the Kokomo Family YMCA, said she wants the children to know that people care about them, and want them to achieve their goals.
“We want to see this generation become the most successful generation that’s ever come out of this community,” she said. “One of the best ways to be successful is to go to college, and be a lifelong learner.”
Walk into my Future is part of the Howard County Promise program.
As part of the program, 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 celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.