Program gives elementary students taste of college life through U visits

by Patricia Drey

Fifth graders from North Star Elementary School in Minneapolis got a taste of college life today while visiting the St. Paul campus.

Eleven University students took a day off from classes to accompany 60 students through age-appropriate classes such as “American History” and a visit to the Raptor Center.

American history professor Tracey Deutsch, the class instructor, said she participated in a similar program when she was a fifth grader in Chicago. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, the same place she visited in elementary school, she said.

The program, called Target Early Awareness for Minnesota Undergraduate Programs, or TEAM-UP, targets fifth graders because research shows that children’s perceptions of what they can accomplish in the future are formed in fourth and fifth grade and solidified in sixth grade, said coordinator Josh LaBau, an English and history junior. The program is run by the College of Liberal Arts dean’s office in collaboration with the Institute of Technology and the College of Biological Sciences.

This is the second time the elementary students have visited the University. They saw the Minneapolis campus in March.

After their first visit to the University, students began asking questions and writing in their journals about college, said Melanie Berneck, their teacher.

“It’s hard because they are from families where a lot of parents haven’t been through college and don’t talk to them about college,” said Berneck, 28. “It’s hard for them to envision it without coming to college.”

Twelve-year-old Joshua Harrison said he was not planning to go to college until his first visit to the University.

Each of the 11 University undergraduate volunteers followed the same group of four or five elementary school students they had seen earlier in the year. When volunteer Alex Vu ran into one of the students in his group at a grocery store, he said the student’s mother told him that her son started talking about college after his first visit to the University.

“I could see how much we impacted them after only one day with them,” said Vu, a biomedical engineering first-year student. “We feel that as students who are in college we have an opportunity to impact their lives by encouraging them to go to college.”

Patricia Drey covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]