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School promoting college early on
Although they are years from applying for admissions, students at Don Pedro Elementary School will have no excuses to avoid college. At least that's what school officials and teachers hope after introducing "No Excuses University," a program to get elementary school students interested in someday attending college.

The Ceres campus has joined the No Excuses University (NEU) network of schools across the country which have stepped up and renewed their commitment to make sure every child meets or exceeds grade-level standards.

The Ceres school is the 10th in the nation to be chosen to be a NEU school. In keeping with the spirit of the program, each school involved adopts the pledge: "We are committed to creating a school that knows no limits to the academic success of each student."

"In the program we push good character traits as well as promote college," said Principal Cheri Gibson of the college readiness program.

According to the website maintained by Turn Around Consulting, LLC, the company that offers No Excuses University: "Educators at No Excuses Universities believe they have the power to influence every student, even those who are most at-risk, to be as academically successful as students from more affluent communities. That is a radical concept, but No Excuses Universities are making it a reality every day."

Classes have adopted a specific university with which to identify. Each day outside the classroom door, teachers fly that class' university flag, and students are encouraged to wear university T-shirts on Friday. Each class also will attempt to gain the support of that University's alumni.

A recent assembly had students holding University banners. Some of the schools represented were Humboldt State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Georgetown, Oregon State, Kansas University, Louisiana State and the University of San Francisco.

Emphasis will be placed this school year on the importance of elementary students realizing a purpose for education and being prepared for college should they choose to attend.

"This commitment involves not only teachers but students, parents, and the community."

Parents are asked to talk to their students every day about their day and also to encourage them. Gibson said she believes parents want the best for their children. Between them and teachers, she said, students will receive positive reinforcement and believe that they are capable of whatever they want in life.

Don Pedro educators are focussing on the acronym PRIDE as a way of getting students to remember character traits deemed necessary for success. PRIDE stands for politeness, responsibility, integrity, determination, and excellence.

In the classroom, students will be discussing the value of education and personal goal setting.

Gibson is in the process of adding a college-like feature to the Don Pedro campus: a Student Union. The goal is to get students to gather at lunch-time to enjoy each other's company and to participate in games and competitions. Gibson said a desired outcome is to reduce the number of detentions/suspensions that do occur frequently on the yard.

The community can help establish the Student Union center by donating cash or equipment, such as games, ping-pong tables, or other recreational equipment. Student awards for good sportsmanship and exceptional effort will also be offered. Cash donations made be made payable to the Don Pedro Associated Student Body. For more information, contact Joey Armendariz, the Student Union Director at 538-0161.

The school will plans to host a large Career Day on Friday, Sept. 14, beginning at 1:15 p.m.

According to Gibson, Don Pedro has consistently made gains in test scores. Last year Don Pedro's Academic Performance Index (API) rose to 771.

"We were a 10 in similar school rankings," said Gibson. "We anticipate meeting our goal again this year. We are very proud of our students, staff and parents. We believe the PRIDE pledge and focus on college readiness will support our quest to make sure every student meets or exceeds grade-level standards in reading, writing, and math."