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College Blitz Day Sends UC Faculty Back to Second Grade

Date: April 23, 2002
By: Martha Ybern
Contact: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos by Colleen Kelley
Archive: General News

Interacting with a classroom of second-graders can be an enlightening experience, especially when it's for a good cause like the first annual College Blitz Day, which was held April 17 in the Cincinnati Public Schools. College Blitz Day is an initiative of the University of Cincinnati GEARUP partnership, the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, the Greater Consortium of Colleges and Universities and the Cincinnati Public Schools. It was all part of an upbeat effort to stress the importance to young children that regardless of their economic situation, attaining a college education can be a reality by staying on track, doing their best to learn, and by graduating from high school. Devontee' McKinney and Lisa Sims listen to UC Research Associate Lionel Brown

UC faculty and staff visited 38 second-grade classrooms across the city to read to children from the Wendy W. Roulliard Book, I Know I Can.

Lionel Brown, assistant professor in the College of Education, read the book to second-graders at Chase Elementary School in Northside. The book emits a powerful message, while using animal characters to relate positively to children, says Brown. Brown asked targeted questions about the children's feelings of school and expectations they had of life and going on to college. He said students were enthusiastic and seemed to answer questions very honestly. When asked how many of them had heard the word "college" and what it meant to them, many had some idea of what college was.

Brown also related to the class that he was the first in his family to graduate from high school and earn more than one college degree as a means to prompt their belief that they too, have what it takes to finish high school and eventually college.

Brown stressed the importance of staying in school and said nurturing values like hard work, being focused, and completing tasks can turn dreams into reality.

Children were encouraged to read along silently from their own copy of the book with Brown and to use their imaginations to visualize the positive direction they wanted to follow. Brown's reinforcement of key words like "success" and "I can" helped the students to stay focused and to foster the belief in themselves that they actually can and will succeed if they stay in school and learn.

The integrative concept of I Know I Can instills in children a belief in themselves, as they read along to discover that each animal has its own little dream of what it wants to do in life. However, it takes hard work and perseverance.

UC Research Associate Lionel Brown

After reading the book, Brown asked the children again what they wanted to do with their lives and some of the answers were surprisingly changed. Prior to reading the book, many had answered that they wanted to be athletes, teachers or even performers. Afterward, they related the examples of the book to their own lives and seemed to form perspectives on how they could go to college to be whatever they wanted to be.

Further illustrating that the class was tuned into the information and that the concept of I Know I Can has positive effects on young minds, Brown recalls the children as being responsive and focused. "They have some idea of what college is and what it takes to get there, and they put sequences from the book into perspective."

Brown believes that the concept of College Blitz Day is excellent but that follow-up is needed or the idea may fade, he says. UC faculty can be even more beneficial by having children interact with professors to see what a classroom is like at the college level and to experience a university setting.

Brown has held several administrative positions in the Cincinnati Public School system, including serving as principal of Withrow High School, Sawyer Junior High School and Aiken High School. His extensive work with children over the years was especially beneficial to the Chase School event due to his insight and perspective in dealing with children on various educational levels

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs or GEARUP is aimed at helping youngsters get on the track to college at an early age, no later than the seventh grade. UC, in collaboration with more than 10 local and regional partners, were awarded a $1.8 million five year GEARUP grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 1999. The partners include Cincinnati Public Schools, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and Wilberforce University.

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