Sixth grade students at Lehigh Elementary School attended an assembly program last Friday, “No Excuses University,” in which students sat with members of La Verne’s Greek community and asked questions about what to expect in college.
Lehigh, a low-income school in Montclair, is school to a majority of first-generation students.
“Our kids need anything and everything anybody will do for them,” Susan Meyer said of her sixth grade students.
Alpha Omicron Pi member Karlie Bettencourt, a senior sociology major, arranged the assembly and all preparations as a part of her internship at Lehigh.
The event took place in their cafeteria and eager students filled the lunch tables.
With three sixth grade classes participating, kids from each class grouped up to talk to more than fifteen Greeks involved in the question and answering portion.
“It was definitely a trial and error experience for me,” Bettencourt said.
“I have never tried to get the whole Greek community together to do anything before and I definitely have a lot more respect for the people who do it on a day to day basis.”
Before the assembly, La Verne Greeks joined the sixth graders out on the blacktop for recess before the bell rang to begin the assembly.
With each table sitting either two or three Greeks and about six or seven sixth graders, conversations remained intimate, giving each child a chance to ask a question.
“It helps to know what they do and then we can learn to do it,” sixth grader Karla Hernandez said.
Many of the kids were eager to pick a question out of the list they were instructed to come up with.
“They are so happy and this is so worth it and it is so inspirational to them,” Bettencourt said. “It’s just amazing.”
When asked about their favorite subject in school and what they want to be when they grow up, kids perked up and honed in on their inner adult.
“I like math because I think it will help me with technology,” Jordan Cerda said, a sixth grader for Meyer’s class. “I want to design stuff within a company.”
Other students were just as ambitious.
“I’m still not sure cause I’m thinking about being a teacher or an architect,” Ximena Alba said, a student of Meyer’s class.
Students at the lunch tables propped themselves on their knees and leaned in close, hanging on every word, listening to the college students as they answered their questions.
A child asked, “What is your ideology of a college education?”
“He just stared us dead on, he really legitimately wanted an answer,” senior English major Jessica Alberts said. “I thought it was a meaningful question and it deserved an answer.”
Some of the other questions asked during the program included that of student life, working a job and going to school, and what living on campus was like.
“The Greek community is a big portion of student life at La Verne,” Bettencourt said. “If there is nothing fun about being told to go to college, and with no concrete example, then all it is are words. It only becomes an imagination of what college is supposed to be.”
As a former student of Lehigh Elementary and a former student of Meyer’s class, Bettencourt holds a special tie with the school and it’s surrounding community.
“This is our future; a lot of people think that the students who come out of this school will amount to nothing,” Bettencourt said. “A lot of people think that they will end up at the bottom of the socio-economic class and will have no help.”
The program is hopeful in implementing a sense of excitement and desire in attending college for these kids who otherwise wouldn’t think it possible.
“That is why it is important to everybody, because these students are our future no matter what their backgrounds are,” Bettencourt said.
“That’s what they come from and that’s the experience they have but that doesn’t mean that they can’t overcome it.”
Alana Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.