Establishing the College-Culture in Elementary School

The U.S., once at the top of the list for college graduates, is graduating only 57 percent of students who are enrolled in a bachelor’s program within six years, and an even lower 25 percent of those enrolled in community colleges. The nation’s effort to increase college completion-rates has popularly started with exposing high schoolers to college programs so they learn to set their goals high and understand the college culture before they arrive. But does awareness in high school come early enough to sprout a generation of college-going and graduating students who are ready for the world of work?

Los Penasquitos Elementary School in San Diego believes that the college-going mindset should start early.   Each classroom is designated to a specific university so that during their time elementary students will be exposed to at least five colleges. Los Penasquitos Elementary School  has changed its name to No Excuses University at Los Pen.  The result?  They’ve grown from being one of the lowest performing schools in the county to being one of the top schools in California.

The families who have children attending No Excuses are at poverty level and mostly live in the nearby public-housing projects. For these children, school might be the only positive place they will be exposed to the possibilities of attending and graduating college.  It can never be too early to have these young students setting high goals, but it definitely can get to be too late. “Waiting until they are in high school for college readiness is as crazy as starting parenting when a kid is 13. You miss the opportunity,” said Damon Lopez, former principal. “For kids who live in poverty, it will take a childhood to break down myths about college and get the child to the place where they can see college in their future.”

Wednesday night, we at LifeBound worked with school officials to conduct a session for parents on promoting success with their students.  The school is closing and will reopen next year with three smaller schools which have more options for student interest and smaller class size.  One of our parent leaders, Lawrence Coleman, raised three successful African-American daughters who all went to college, the oldest of whom is 32.  “I started setting the college expectation for their success while they were in kindergarten,” says Lawrence who just adopted two more urban children ages 2 and 4.   To be sure, providing expectations for young students and working with role models who are going to college, excelling at their part time jobs and making smart choices is the best way to give at-risk youth the chance to excel early in life and throughout their lives.

Referenced article:

Elementary Students Encouraged to Set College Goals

To get children thinking about college early, Los Penasquitos Elementary School in San Diego changed its name to No Excuses University at Los Pen. Instead of numbers, classrooms are identified by college names with flags from Ohio State or the University of Michigan hanging on the door. Students learn all about their assigned school, make up a cheer for it, and sometimes even have alumni visit.

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