Virginia Tech student volunteers give fifth graders a taste of college

L_041015-clahs-kindertocollegeAn orientation talk, a hands-on science experiment, a meal in the nation’s top campus dining facility, a visit with ROTC students, and a peek in the stadium makes a packed day for fifth graders visiting Virginia Tech.

For the last six years, busloads of elementary students get to see what it’s like to be a Virginia Tech student. This annual college aspirations program helps young students consider the possibilities and benefits of attending college.

The “Kindergarten to College” series is a partnership between the School of Education and VT-STEM for high-needs schools across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Our program serves as a model across the commonwealth for college and career awareness partnerships but we couldn’t do this without our student volunteers,” says Sue Magliaro, professor of education and VT-STEM director, who coordinates the Kindergarten-to-College program. “Each time the children come to campus, over 100 volunteers, including students, faculty, and staff are on board to make the visit the best experience possible. But it’s the students who take the lead in serving as the children’s primary link to life on a university campus!”

Students from Giles Elementary are scheduled to be on campus today for the Kindergarten-to-College program. So far this spring, the program has hosted has schools from Pulaski, Roanoke, Montgomery, and Prince William counties as well as the city of Roanoke.

Student volunteers play a valuable role in the day-long experience. Sophomore human development major Erica Vandeveer of Smithfield, Virginia, recalls a conversation in Cassell Coliseum as one child remarked, “I wish I could come here when I’m your age and watch basketball.” Vandeveer affirmed that he “absolutely could do that as a student and that the games were amazing.” The child came back with ‘Well my mom didn’t go to college so neither can I.”

Vandeveer said “it hurt to hear such a small child sound so defeated but I was happily able to come back with, ‘Neither did mine, and here I am!’ The excitement on his face was precious and so encouraging. It was a great moment.”

Sophomore Kaitlin Tuller of Bristow, Virginia, also a human development major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, agreed that “the experience is very fulfilling. It allows these children the opportunity to visit a college, and see that college is a possibility in their future.”

Joey Slye of Stafford, Virginia, a kicker on the Hokies’ football team, proved to be a favorite among the children. It was hard to tell who got the most out of the experience as Slye was volunteering in honor of this brother AJ, who passed away in February 2014 after a battle with leukemia.

“Joey has been absolutely fantastic,” said Magliaro. “He truly engages the students in conversation, listening to them, helping them to really understand what is going on.”

Liz Aker of Charlotte, North Carolina, a junior double majoring in psychology and human development, said she loves “the opportunity to work with kids.” She volunteers to help with reading and also works with Down’s Syndrome children during the summers.

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