Kim Oaks-Blair, a counselor at Kennedy, explains, “Starting at a young age, we intentionally incorporate college terminology in the classroom. By the time students get to the fifth-grade trips, they are ready to see the things they have heard about since entering Kennedy.”
The emphasis on incorporating college terminology and ideas into the elementary classroom is a big reason the college field trips are a success at Kennedy. Not only does this prepare students for high school, the traditional time to consider college, but it exposes them to the idea that college and postsecondary education is a real option for them at a young age. It ensures that when they get to the later years of high school, they will not be hearing college information for the first time. Also, for Kennedy students, it makes the college field trips more impactful because they understand what they are seeing, and all the information they have been hearing is being experienced firsthand.
Since 2016, the Kingsport Kiwanis Club has partnered with Kennedy to help make the Milligan and Northeast State field trip possible at no cost to students. Kiwanis helps to provide the buses and lunches for the students. Removing the financial obligation ensures every student can participate. The fifth-graders at Kennedy visit both Milligan and Northeast State on the same day, making it a busy but exciting full day. They get to see the inside of classrooms, dorm rooms, multiple academic buildings, and dining areas. The lunch paid by Kiwanis is in the Milligan cafeteria, an important part of the field trip and something students look forward to. Dining in a college cafeteria is a big deal to these children and just that experience can help plant the idea of “college” for many of them. At Northeast State, in addition to seeing classrooms and buildings, the children experience walking the campus like any college student would. The ETSU field trip incorporates more fun activities, such as seeing a women’s basketball game in Brooks gym, viewing the Olympic training site, and speaking with student athletes.
The fifth-grade field trips at Kennedy are an important milestone for students. Building on what teachers and staff at the school have been talking about throughout their time at the elementary schools, students are able to experience the options they have and form memories and ideas that will last. This is one way the school is helping to promote college readiness.
The variety of schools shown to students is an important inclusion as well. By experiencing private, community and public colleges, students can determine which ones may interest them the most. This shows students at an early age that there are multiple options, and college is not a one-track path. Students at Kennedy were asked to write personal statements about what they thought about the college trips. The responses demonstrate the impact these trips have on students.
“I enjoyed visiting Northeast State Community College because it helped me open my eyes to college.” – Kiera
“What I loved the most about visiting colleges was learning about the options I have for the future.” – Luke
“I enjoyed visiting Northeast because I got to see everything I could do to become a chemist.” – Conner
“I really liked going to visit Milligan because I want to go there for my master’s degree after I graduate from ETSU.” – Gracie
“What I enjoyed most about the different college campuses was they had great career ideas and food.” – Mya
If you are interested in community service, especially to young children, consider becoming a Kiwanian. Contact information is available online at www.kingsportkiwanis.org.