Getting an early start on a promise

photo of WMU signThe Kalamazoo Promise offers Kalamazoo students an unprecedented opportunity to achieve their dreams for college and a career. But unless students from a young age understand what college is and what they need to do to get there, they might miss out on this golden opportunity.

The possibility of students missing out is what drives Haneen Khan, a third grade teacher at Kalamazoo Public Schools' Washington Writers' Academy. "All KPS sixth graders go on a WMU college tour," she explains. "I thought it would be a good idea to expose Washington's students to college at an earlier age and explore different areas of study and career paths through hands-on activities on campus."

"Our students are Kalamazoo Promise children," she continues. "They hear the word 'college' all the time in school, but it isn't a concrete idea to them. Since many of them will be first-generation college students, they need more exposure."

The WMU Day program is a series of field trips, one day each for Washington's third, fourth and fifth graders, with about 50 or 60 students per grade involved. This year, third graders had the chance to experience the fields of chemistry and biology. "During the third grade trip this spring," Khan says, "we did chemistry experiments that aligned with the state standards and our science curriculum. So getting to see students and scientists collaborating on site at WMU was very exciting for them."

The fourth graders went to the College of Aviation, where they created efficient paper airplanes, toured a 727 and visited the Battle Creek airport. This fall, the fifth graders will go to the College of Engineering, where they will work with faculty and students.

"We are very grateful to Western, which has been so generous providing the facilities and materials to conduct these experiments and experiences," Khan says. "WMU also has given many hours of faculty, staff and student time to show our students future options.

"WMU Day gives our kids a taste of college," she concludes, "something concrete they can related to. It helps them understand the importance of working hard and getting good grades in school. This one critical field trip can give them an early start on later academic success and, eventually, The Kalamazoo Promise."

A Good Neighbor Grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation is being used to pay for bus transportation and take-home academic supplies for WMU Day.

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