>Albion College is trying to create a college-bound culture in Calhoun County through its new Albion College Positive Community program.
With $12,000 in grant money from a state coalition called the Michigan Campus Compact, the college has partnered with the Greater Albion College Access Network of the Albion Community Foundation to start getting local middle school and high school students on campus and excited about the prospect of furthering their education.
With the guidance of Albion College associate professor of education Kyle Shanton, juniors Josiah Fallot and John Faulkner have taken the administrative reins of the program and recently welcomed in groups of students from Albion High School and Mar Lee School in Marshall.
On April 14 Albion High School students had the opportunity to attend the Elkin Issac Student Research Symposium, an exhibition of various independent studies Albion College students were undertaking.
“Students presented everything from a chapter of a novel they were writing to poetry reading to vocal performances to a presentation from the sciences that had lots of charts and graphs,” Shanton said. “From my point of view it was an academic event but the point was for high school and middle school students to see that academics in college isn’t simply sitting a classroom.”
Students were also given a short tour of campus and had the opportunity to ask College Positive Volunteers questions about the academic and social truths of college.
Fallot, an English education major who graduated from Morenci High School, said part of his job is simply debunking common myths about college.
“There’s kind of this constant question every time I talk to a student or at least every boy I talk to, where they always say, ‘So, do you play any sports?’ because there’s this perception that everybody in college plays a sport and we’re all here on some sort of athletic scholarship,” he said. “I guess it’s what you see on ESPN.”
When the fourth- and fifth-grade students from Mar Lee visited campus several weeks later they were greeted with an array of fun inflatables and picnic lunch, followed by plenty of lively conversations about what lies beyond the 12th grade.
Fallot said the questions were basic — like “How many classes do you have?” and “How much homework do you do?” — but the bonding was substantial.
“I’ve learned there’s this kind of misconception that there’s a huge gap between college students and kids in elementary or high school or kids from a different background or area,” he said. “Honestly once you get talking with them about basic things like where you’re from and what you like to do and in about a minute-and-a-half to two minutes that gap can be bridged significantly.”
Shanton said surveys the students filled out revealed talking with the College
Positive Volunteers was their favorite activity, indicating “that at this point, this strategy matters.”
Community Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Schultheiss said the partnership is vital to building peer-to-peer relationship in Albion and teaching young students about topics like financial aid and skill development.
“The core of this vision is you want to create a college-going culture in your community, especially in a community where you may have kids coming from families where nobody has been to college before,” she said.” It’s about showing them that them going to college can happen and there are people and resources that can help.”
She said with the early success of the initiative, the foundation is applying for an annual grant of $20,000 that would be recurring for the next five years.
Shanton said the Concord, Homer and Springport school districts have shown interest in joining the program for the 2011-12 school year.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot