Je’Vonte Prayer has dreams of becoming a professional basketball player — after he goes to college, of course.
Eleven-year-old Je’Vonte is one of 50 fifth-graders from Eugene Field Elementary School who experienced college a little earlier than most at “College Day” at Columbia College on Wednesday.
As part of an 18-year-old tradition, the college invited students from Eugene Field, its partner in education, to the campus to show students what college is about, said Faye Burchard, dean of campus life.
“Each fifth-grader is paired with a student here. They go to a real class and are expected to take notes and pay attention,” Burchard said. “The faculty tries to relate their lesson to the children and to get them excited about college.”
The process began two weeks ago when Eugene Field students filled out applications for the college. Each child received an acceptance letter, contingent on high school transcripts and other requirements such as grade point average, Burchard said.
“It was kind of confusing,” said Jasmyne Camden, 11. “There were a lot of different choices and questions to answer.”
On College Day, students started with a financial aid speaker, Burchard said. Students learned what it takes to pay for college and the importance of good grades in helping with scholarships.
“They told us college is hard and it costs a lot, but if you do good in school, sometimes they help pay for you,” said 11-year-old Alan Finney.
As part of the classroom visit, junior Nikki Nesselhauf, majoring in social work, took her two partners, Jasymyne and 10-year-old Charles Wilson, to one of her classes: social work for individuals. Nesselhauf said it was good for both age groups, because the younger ones were involved while the college students got some practice counseling.
“They were our toys today,” Nesselhauf said.
Charles said the class was fun for him, too, because he was involved in role-playing.
“Me and Jasmyne were stepbrother and stepsister in our class,” Charles said. “Nikki was a counselor, and we played a counseling game.”
Students also toured the campus with their partners and then ate lunch in the dining hall with their peers. There, they swapped stories about their big day on campus, including what they did and didn’t like.
“I liked that you can play pool and pingpong,” said Charles, who wants to study Spanish someday. “I didn’t like the girls’ dorms, though — they were too girly.”
Je’Vonte, who wants to study mathematics in college before he makes it to the NBA, said he liked seeing the gym and weight room.
“There were a lot of weights; I wish I had that at my house,” he said. “If they were in my basement, I’d be down there every day, having fun.”
Senior Linzi Newth, a biology major who will graduate in May, was partnered with Alan and Je’Vonte.
“I think it’s cool that these kids already have dreams of what they want to be,” she said. “When I was in fifth grade, I wasn’t thinking about that stuff.”
The College Day gives the children a realistic view of what school is like when you get older, Newth said.
“All they know of school is that they go from eight to three, every day,” she said. “They don’t get to see the freedom and responsibility in going to college.”