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August 6, 2009
By Claudene Wharton
The "graduates" who will be seen on the Quad of the University of Nevada, Reno on Aug. 18 may seem a little young.
The 240 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows have been shown a slice of University life this summer through the University's Campus Kids program. Groups of 40 children spent a week on campus, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., being supervised and mentored by college-student mentors and Boys & Girls Club teen leaders from similar backgrounds. The program is running for six weeks, and culminates in the graduation ceremony at 5:30 p.m., Aug. 18.
The goal of the program is to reach out to children at a young age to let them know that regardless of their families' incomes, "they have the right, the means and the intelligence to go to college if they work hard," according to Kathy Carrico, the University's Campus Kids Summer Youth Program director.
Nevada is 49th in the nation for college participation for students from low-income families.
The kids in the program participate in a variety of tours, activities and discussions. They stop and write in their journals and take photos as they explore the campus. Their week culminates with running a lemonade stand on Thursday at lunchtime. But, before they set up shop, they have two entrepreneurial-learning sessions with University economics professor Mark Pingle. He guides them through a computer program, "Lemonade Tycoon," where they learn about components of running a business, such as product quality, sales, customer service, pricing and location.
Fourth-grader Daizy who participated in the program said she really wants to go to college and maybe become a doctor. She said she's also learned a lot about different cultures and that "it's really important to watch what you do and be healthy - 'get education, not vegetation,'" which is a theme for the program.
The mentors say that by the end of the week, many of the kids are talking about going to college, so they think the program is having an effect on them.
Sixth-grader Chris Liu said at the end of his week, "I like going to college. I want to get a good job and be a scientist. I'd like to work hard and get a scholarship. All the staff here tells us about the opportunity. They say going to college is a choice."
The program was made possible by a grant of new stimulus funds from Nevada Works, and with the assistance of the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, a partner in the program with the College of Business' Small Business Development Center.