When College Is a Child’s Favorite Field Trip

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Chris Sloan, Director of Community Engagement for Wabash County YMCA.

Think of all the exciting places an elementary student might go for a class field trip–a local farm and orchard; a state park or nature center; the regional children’s museum or zoo.

For Ava Lester, a first grader in Wabash County, Indiana, her favorite field trip of the year is not one of these places. Her favorite is the annual event called “Walk Into My Future”, a field trip to a college campus as part of the Wabash County Promise. Every September since 2013, all kindergarten through third grade classes in Wabash County have made the trip to Manchester University, a liberal arts college in North Manchester, Indiana.

When Ava’s class steps off the school bus outside the recreation center, a Manchester University student greets them as their guide for the day. First, they visit the Jo Young Switzer Center to see the dining hall (and learn that there’s an ice cream machine there!). Next, at Wine Recital Hall, professors and students from the music department lead a demonstration on piano fuerte and dynamics in music using songs that students can sing along with, like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Outside Funderburg Library, the Math Department teaches Ava and her classmates that they can perform magic by using math operations to discern the secret number chosen by their fellow classmate. The young boy who chose the number exclaims to his buddy, “why’d you tell them?” when they correctly determine the number. Next, Ava and her classmates run an obstacle course set up on the mall by the Manchester Athletics teams and get high-fives from the cheerleading squad.

When Ava’s class joins the other 1,300 elementary students from five county schools in Cordier Auditorium, they are greeted by Manchester University president, Dave McFadden. He first warms them up with a knock-knock joke and then welcomes them to campus, explaining that as University president he is “like the principal” of the college.

When he tells the students their “homework” assignment for the day is to talk to an adult about college, and that their teacher is someone who went to college, students excitedly ask their teachers questions. After Manchester University guides lead the group in a raucous round of “Simon Says,” they also share an important message with the younger students: you can go to college someday.

Around the state of Indiana this month, 18 other college campuses—public, private, and community colleges—are hosting elementary students from 24 counties at their “Walk Into My Future” events. The campuses and activities are unique, but the message is the same: you can go to college someday. Promise Indiana—which supports each of the local community Promise initiatives—seeks to help every Hoosier family open a Children’s Savings Account (CSA) by providing an initial deposit and leveraging community dollars to match funds in these accounts to help them grow.

Thanks to the partnership of higher education campuses around the state, these accounts are also an effort to instill college-bound identity. They are a tangible reminder of the important message: you can go to college someday. Since 2013, over 10,000 students in Indiana have started accounts through Promise Indiana, and it is the visit to college that is their favorite field trip of the year.

Get the latest on our work in Children’s Savings by joining the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future.

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