Inspiring a college-going culture

By Tim Engle

The Kids2College program helps students set their sights on college.

Over three days recently, the average age of students at one Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City (MCC) campus dropped by several years: Every sixth-grader in Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) attended college for a couple of hours thanks to a program called Kids2College.

The idea behind national initiative Kids2College is to inspire a college-going culture at a young age, especially among low-income and minority students.

Between March 20 and 22, 1,042 sixth-graders from 21 Kansas City schools descended on MCC’s Penn Valley campus in midtown Kansas City. In morning and afternoon sessions, students embarked on tours of the campus with three stopping stations.

On the first morning, for instance, one stop introduced a robot from MCC-Penn Valley’s Early College Academy. Another put sixth-graders on stage for an improv exercise. And in the Penn Valley gym, there were demonstrations and hands-on activities from campus programs such as visual arts, graphic design, nursing/surgical technology and early childhood education.

Kids2College is one of many equity and access initiatives MCC offers, according to Kimberly Beatty, Metropolitan Community College chancellor.

“Programs like this are opportunities for young students to have a college-going experience, but they also learn that a quality college education is available in their backyard,” Beatty said. “We can show them that college is affordable and attainable.”

About 70 percent of KCPS students go on to college or trade school. “Our goal is to really fill that gap. We want to move closer to the 100 percent mark,” Jermaine Wilson, Kansas City Public Schools director of counseling and support services, told KSHB-TV.

For many KCPS sixth-graders, Kids2College is their first opportunity to be on a college campus.

“A lot of these students come from homes where their parent or guardian doesn’t have a college education,” said Tyjaun Lee, MCC-Penn Valley president. “So for us to start with students in the sixth grade, that begins to help them understand that college is an option, but a community college could be in closer reach than a four-year institution.”

This was the fifth year MCC-Penn Valley has hosted the event. The sixth-graders left the campus with certificates, a packet of information about MCC programs, and a letter to parents about the Kids2College experience.

Prior to the campus visits, the students took part in several weeks of Kids2College lessons led by school counselors. The classroom activities reinforce the importance of setting students’ sights on college.

Kids2College was launched in 1992 by the Sallie Mae Fund, which provides the curriculum free of charge to educational partners across the country.

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Tim Engle

is a communications analyst at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri.