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In elementary school the main focus is winning the next game of tag or trying to get that special someone to like you, but many never consider long-term academic goals such as attending college. Without the proper encouragement, some elementary school students may never consider college as an option.
To make sure all children are encouraged to pursue a higher education, The Center for Service and Learning at BYU will host Project Youth on March 22 to inspire 5th and 6th grade students from underprivileged families and Title 1 schools to attend college.
Upon arriving at campus, elementary students are paired off into groups of 10 and assigned to one mentor. The mentor then takes students on a personal tour of campus where they visit different departments and listen to two or three presentations given by professors or teacher assistants.
BYU student Katherine Richards, a coordinator for the event, has seen the benefits the program has had on elementary students.
“I’ve been involved in Project Youth for a couple of years and have seen this program inspire elementary students to become excited to go to college someday,” Richards said.
Rodney Price, a 6th grade teacher at Timpanogos Elementary, has taken his classes on field trips to BYU for the past 12 years.
“Going to Project Youth gives my students something to look forward to,” Price said. “My students are given the opportunity to see what college life is like and interact with BYU students. (They) learn a great deal from college students, and it gives them an incentive to someday go to college.”
After the tour, the students gather in Brigham Square for a pep rally, where they attend a performance by Living Legends and watch a picture slideshow of photos taken throughout the field trip.
Richards shared the excitement she felt when the elementary students were on campus.
“During the entire day there is always so much energy that comes from the elementary students as soon as they come off the bus,” Richards said. “This program also reenergizes professors or students as they help inspire and teach others on why they choose their field of study.”
BYU student Will Keeton is a coordinator for Project Youth but was once also an elementary student touring BYU.
As an elementary school student, Keeton received an invitation from his older sister, who at the time was a BYU student. He said the experience provided him with memories he will never forget.
“She brought me with her to her chemistry class,” Keeton said. “I still remember the lecture which was on the movement of atoms in gas, liquid and solids. I loved the lecture and the day I spent at BYU. This experience coincidentally led me to become a chemistry major.”
The simple action of Keeton’s older sister reaching out to him made all the difference in his life. A simple invitation, words of encouragement and advice can be all an elementary student needs to realize the importance of continuing education.
“A lot of us BYU students have had influences that helped inspire them to go to college,” Keeton said. “A lot of these kids we help don’t have these influences. This is our chance to step in and help underprivileged (children) visualize a future that they may otherwise not see.”