Last Friday, passers-by could hear students chanting “We got some ‘Canes over here! Whoosh, whoosh!” and “It’s great… to be… a Miami Hurricane!” across campus throughout the day. However, it was not UM students showing school spirit – it was fourth graders visiting from Little River Elementary School.
The young students were on campus as part of Kids and Culture, the three-year-old program that brings college students together with kids from elementary schools that scored a “D” or “F” on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT].
The FCAT, administered to students to assess their reading and mathematical skills, compares schools within the state and throughout the nation. The schools are scored with letter grades based on their performance, and those with higher letter grades receive money for school supplies and administration salaries.
However, the FCAT has appropriated some criticism because the schools that earn lower grades tend to be located in impoverished neighborhoods that lack efficient teachers and supplies to administer the FCAT. These schools continue to earn the same letter grades year after year.
Critics believe students at these schools grow up less motivated and are thus less likely to proceed to a higher-level education. Here is where Kids and Culture steps in.
“It gives them something to look forward to,” Tymana Riddick, Little River Elementary School teacher, said. “It gives them a chance to get out of their neighborhoods and see something positive.”
Throughout the year, college students visited the designated elementary school to talk to students about their futures and the options available to them. According to Azuree Ashby, Kids and Culture advisor, the program seeks to stress the importance of education, while also providing “different options, not necessarily going to a university.”
The fourth graders were brought to UM for their final field trip to experience college life firsthand. Kids got the opportunity to learn cultural dances, perform chemistry tricks and eat at UM’s very own dining halls.
The Filipino Student Association taught the students their popular “stick dance,” more properly called tinikling, while the Caribbean Student Association showed the kids their moves. Later on, the kids were treated to the Chemistry Club’s “magic show,” including shattering rubber balls, glow-in-the-dark liquids and disappearing styrofoam.
“I thought it was a really worthwhile experience, for both the volunteers and the kids,” Jackie Hechtman, freshman volunteer, said. “It was exciting to see how a little gesture could make the kids so happy. We are role models for them, and hopefully they have something to look forward to after their stay here.”
Kids eating lunch in the Hecht-Stanford dining hall stacked their trays to the hilt, amazed that it was “all you can eat.”
Ten-year-olds Raul Sanchez and Evens Michel explained the different activities to the volunteers, saying “they told us what it means to be leaders” and that “the science one” was their favorite activity.
“This was the best field trip I ever had in my life,” Sanchez said.
For more information about Kids and Culture, contact Volunteer Services at 305-284-GIVE.