21st Century Prep visit preps students for college
Teacher Jamian Knuth knows the answer he wants when he asks students his favorite question.
"I'm continually asking: what are you going to invite me to? And they go: College graduations! They yell it out," he said.
Knuth, a sixth grade teacher at 21st Century Preparatory School in Racine, was among the faculty who led students on a three week summer term at UW-Parkside. The school, serving students in pre-kindergarten (4 year old kindergarten) to 8th grade, is chartered through the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
"The mission of our school is college preparation and we really wanted to get back to our roots. The main thing for our students is exposure and the possibility that college is in their future," said school counselor Jenny Manderfeld in explaining the extended campus visit. "We wanted them to have an overall broad experience here. So, they have done everything from a campus tour, to actually sitting in on college courses, to taking a look at the facilities; to really encompass everything that the campus has to offer the kids."
Knuth agreed that exposure to the campus and knowing that Wyllie Hall leads into Greenquist Hall are important. But, he said, gaining an understanding of the university's atmosphere and, perhaps, a sense of belonging were keys to this visit.
"It's meeting the people here; maybe getting the feel of what it's like to be a college student and having that [idea] planted now, really early on," Knuth stated. "Then being able to go back to your parents and say 'this is what I liked about it, this is what I didn't like.' And to be able to say: 'I can do this.'"
Students weren't the only ones learning about UW-Parkside during their three weeks here. Manderfeld said while students were getting acquainted with admissions, she was learning how she could better help them smooth the transition to college.
"They helped break down things for me, too, as to what they want 8th graders to know. So now I can take that knowledge and start using it in the classroom during my classroom guidance sessions, especially for the middle school kids," said Manderfeld.
A highlight for 21st Century Prep students was meeting UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford who called them "Future Rangers." Knuth said the value of this kind of interaction cannot be overestimated.
"They might not remember who spoke to them, they might not remember the specifics, but they will remember how it made them feel. It's the feeling of this that's important. We even had kids who were saying 'Parkside's for me' already because they feel they are part of this place," Knuth said. He then added: "I wish I had this experience as a sixth grade student."
University and 21st Century officials agreed that what started this summer will continue. The two institutions are planning a fall program for parents so they can be as knowledgeable of the admissions process as their children became this summer at UW-Parkside.In the photo, 21st Century students meet UW-Parkside admission counselors to better understand what it takes to be admitted to a college.