By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Don Pedro students get virtual look at college choices
Students at Don Pedro Elementary School had a better idea where they might like to attend college by the end of a "Virtual College Tour" event held Jan. 11. The school rotated students through 21 five-minute stations where they watched video presentations on college and university campuses throughout the nation.

"We really emphasize going to college at our school and work on a culture of expectation that all can go to college," said Principal Rick Hall.

Don Pedro Elementary has been participating in the No Excuses University program for at least six years, said Hall. Teachers stress the importance of doing well in studies as a way of preparing for college admission.

Thinking about college can't hurt at an early age, said Hall, given that students need to be ready to prepared to take advanced placement (AP) courses in high school.

"You can't wait until a senior in high school to be thinking about college," he said.

School officials and teachers felt the need to foster an environment where shooting for college is impressed in everyday life since many are from poorer families where parents have had no college experience. Over 90 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch and many students come from homes where only Spanish is spoken.

"Don Pedro does not have a college going demographic," said Hall.

"It is our dream to make college a reality for all of our students," said teacher Sandra Yonan. "It is our belief that every one of our students has the innate ability to learn and holds a very bright college future ahead of them."

To expose students to the "sights and sounds of college," said Yonan, the school encourages students to wear No Excuses University shirts on Mondays, and wear their university shirts - each class adopts one college or university - on Fridays and at spirit assemblies. University flags drape the doors of every classroom as each class has adopted a different university.

Parents, students, and staff endorse a three-way contract that ensures student success. She said staff members are committed to finding new ways to bring college standards to life at each grade level.

"For many, these steps initiate the process of bringing to an end the perpetual poverty that traps so many of our families," said Yonan.

Wednesday's virtual tour included the exchange of college trading cards.

Hall said he understands the difficulties families face, noting that he is the only college graduate in his family. He started out only wanting to be a doctor or lawyer but he planned early.

"It's tough without mentors," he said. "A lot of families don't have the planning resources."

He said many junior college students fail since they failed to prepare for the rigors of college academics. Hall said statistics bear out that those who qualify for a four-year university do better if they opt for a junior college over those who don't qualify.

The school has even re-framed the concept of the detention room as being the "no excuses room" where students get a second chance to bear down and get serious about school work and homework.