Hollingworth Elementary School prepping students for college
While elementary students are busy focusing on history, math, English and other core subjects as well as hobbies and friends, should they also be worrying about college?
Michael Hoon, principal of Hollingworth Elementary School in West Covina, thinks so.
In fact, he thinks the focus on college should start as young as kindergarten in the Rowland Unified school..
"A lot of times kids aren't getting the message saying they can do it," said Hoon, 43. "They may not have had parents who went to college. We need to do that here at school. We need to give them the vision that someday they can attend college. We prepare them for that opportunity."
That's why Hollingworth Elementary has been a "No Excuses University" for the past three years.
Each class at the school "adopts" a different university, which begins to familiarize them with the idea of college.
Besides learning the cheers and mascots of the colleges, Hollingworth students also hear from alumni and learn more about what each college offers and where they are located.
Sometimes the kids are even able to visit the campuses for such colleges as UCLA or Cal Poly Pomona. Every year they go to a UCLA football game.
Hollingworth just had the kickoff for its No Excuses University program on Sept. 10. Various college alumni spoke about their college experiences and the pivotal role higher education has played in their lives.
"We have people who have gone to college speak (to the students)," said Hoon.
No Excuses University was started by TurnAround Schools, an organization dedicated to giving all children the opportunity to be prepared for college.
It also gives teachers the chance to learn how to prepare the students for college and how to get them to participate. The teachers of Hollingworth Elementary attend the No Excuses University training every year.
"The whole concept of No Excuses University is the concept of college readiness," said Dan Lopez, president of TurnAround Schools. "We believe that children deserve to be educated in a way that college is an opportunity for them. The adults in the schools hold the key to unlocking that door for each and every kid."
Lopez believes it's important to start the exposure early.
"If people think college readiness begins in ninth grade, we have lost our greatest opportunity," he said. "It needs to begin as soon as kids set foot on campus - the exposure to universities and colleges."
Lopez is not the only fan of this early interaction with students and colleges.
"I definitely see a big change," said fourth-grade teacher Irene Fang, 29, of Rowland Heights. "Before the No Excuses University we would never be talking about the concept of college. Now everybody knows what college means - it's their goal. It really makes them familiar with the idea."
The idea of college may be new to some families, and for them it's that much more important. Fang had a mother talk to her about how her child could be the first person in her family to attend college.
"Her child was standing right next to her. He knew what that meant and was proud," said Fang. "It makes a big impact on the community."
Students are making their own goals at an earlier age with this program and are associating college with a higher quality of life.
"I want to be smart when I grow up," said fourth-grader Jiannella Bonilla, 8. "I want to earn a lot of money."
Principal Hoon is happy with the program and its goal for the school.
"I think it's an exciting opportunity for us to open doors for the kids and their families," he said. "That's what I'm all about, making sure we expose them and tell them about things, give them information that opens doors to creating that thought that goes, `Oh yeah, maybe this is possible."'