COLUMBIA — Fifty-seven Columbia students between fifth and seventh grades got the college graduation experience early on Friday.
Each student received a certificate of completion at a graduation ceremony that capped off the students' week of taking classes at Columbia College as part of the month-long Summer Expeditions program. The students' time at Columbia College was intended for the students to experience college life. The students spend the other three weeks of the program at Hickman High School.
At the end of the ceremony, Terry Smith, Columbia College executive vice president and dean for academic affairs, said, "The most important thing is not what you wear, not what you carry around the outside, but in fact what's on the inside." He then pulled open his academic gown and showed his fluorescent yellow Summer Expeditions logo T-shirt.
The students, most of whom were wearing matching shirts with Smith, laughed and applauded.
Tyler Simmons, the program coordinator, said the program provides resources for students and is designed to motivate them to pursue a higher education degree. "The main goal is to go to college and graduate from college."
Simmons said students were selected on the basis of high test scores, a good discipline report and a high attendance rate.
The students participating received more than just certificates. They learned some valuable life lessons, too.
Luqman Muhammad said the program taught him to "be determined and never stop dreaming." Luqman, 11, will attend Gentry Middle School this fall.
Jacinta Chacon, 11, enjoyed philosophy class. It's her second year joining the program. She said she learned deep thinking and how to know what is and is not a good argument.
To have a good argument, "you have to have reasoning behind what you are trying to say," Jacinta said.
It was also Melanie Johnson-Moxley's second year with the program. Moxley, a philosophy professor at Columbia College, said she didn't change much course content from what she provides her college students for the children. She just changed some vocabulary words and explanations and added more dynamic elements to make her lectures more visually attractive.
She said she was nervous at first but soon became amazed at the students. In class they talked about the trial of Socrates for "criminal curiosity," and the kids immediately got into the idea of being intellectual, searching for the truth and not settling for ways of escaping the truth.
"The younger the students are, the more open they are to explore," Johnson-Moxley said. "They're less afraid to be wrong."
In addition to philosophy, the students took creative writing, math, art, technology and drama classes at Columbia College during the week-long program.
State Farm Insurance Company donated $16,100 to the Summer Expeditions program. The grant, known as a State Farm Good Neighbor Citizenship Grant, will cover two years' expenses for the program, said Kevin Gamble, public affairs specialist for State Farm.