Fourth-graders find out what college is about


Staff Writer

While there's never been a minimum height requirement to attend Imperial Valley College, some students on campus Monday looked a little "under-tall."

Some 90 fourth-graders from Heber Elementary School sporting brand new backpacks with the words "I'm Going To College" emblazoned on them were on campus for the day to discover for themselves just what going to college was all about.

The visit was part of an initiative by the California Student Opportunity & Access Program, or Cal-SOAP.

"I was the first person in my family to go beyond the sixth grade," was the powerful message from Caesar Sereseres, associate dean for undergraduate studies at University of California, Irvine.


Sereseres was addressing the students as a prelude to their taking a tour of the campus and as he made his opening remarks he stepped back from the podium for a moment to take a photograph of the assembled students with a small disposable camera he whipped out of his coat pocket.

"I want to take this photo of you now and then look at it again when you're at college age and see where you're at then," Sereseres said, much to the children's delight.

Many of the kids then produced cameras of their own and started snapping away at the keynote speaker.

The professor's message to the children was a simple but passionate one — "Never stop learning and never give up and go to college!"

Telling the children that by the time they graduate from college California will have a 50 percent Latino population, he challenged them to be the best they could be by being California's future doctors, lawyers, engineers, politicians and lawmakers.

"The odds were against people like you and me going to university because most of our parents never thought about going to university," Sereseres told the students and then added a resounding, "but every one of you can get to university if you want to!"

As fourth-grade teacher Frances Fink marshaled her group to tour the campus library, she explained how she had prepared the children for the visit to IVC.

"We had some lessons where we talked about what type of colleges there are and what they could study at college. And when we go back to class we'll have some more activities that were provided for us by Cal-SOAP. I'll be spending time with my students challenging them to think about planning to go to college."

According to Julio Rodriquez, assistant director for Cal-SOAP in Imperial County, this was the first time his organization has taken young students onto a college campus.

"We want them to understand the process of going to college and we want to plant the seed at this age and as they move on to junior high we have other programs like ‘College — Making It Happen' where we also bring the parents in and lay out for them what the next steps are," Rodriquez said.

Rodriquez said Cal-SOAP has possible plans to work with "… mothers of children in the 0-5 age group so we can just give them the information in those developmental years … if the parents plant that seed of going to college early enough in their children, it will always be there."

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