Kids ‘N Culture instills college hope

Led by Sebastian the Ibis, UM cheers were reverberated by 300 fifth graders who gathered at the Rock last Friday as part of the Kids ‘N Culture mentoring program, which places UM student mentors into the elementary school classroom to educate and encourage inner-city students to continue on with higher education.
“Most of these kids don’t even make it to high school,” Paco Castellon, junior and co-chair of the Kids ‘N Culture event, said. “This is the perfect time to talk to them about college.”
Kids ‘N Culture began five years ago as an organized event under LINK, a volunteer program board that has become the birthing ground for a multitude of community service events.
This semester, mentors visited Flamingo and Charles Drew Elementary Schools, two minority schools in Miami, during a six-week period.
“The kids essentially spent a day in the life of a college student by visiting some of the college classes and eating in the student cafeterias,” Mark O’Connor, sophomore and chair for the campus visit, said.
Upon arriving early Friday morning, the kids were greeted at the Rock by Sebastian, President Donna Shalala, Vice President for student affairs Pat Whitely, Dean Yarger from the School of Education and representatives of the ROTC.
Dr. Tegan Eve of the chemistry department then put on a “magic show” for the kids by proving that science can be fun and showing the type of chemistry kids most enjoy – combustions and explosions.
The 300 kids then broke off into three groups. Twelve UM students were designated as group leaders.
“We had double the amount of kids than usual, but the event went so smoothly,” Azuree Ashby, an advisor at the Butler Volunteer Services Center who helped with the Kids ‘N Culture event, said.
Some of the events that were organized for the kids included a tour of the Lowe Art Museum and the opportunity to get involved with International Week by learning hula and Indian dancing in the UC.
“It’s an amazing program,” Castellon said. “Some of these kids never get to see the Coral Gables area, and now they have it in the back of their heads that they can get to college.”
According to organizers, by 2 p.m., the kids had experienced a bit of college life and were boarded on their school buses and headed out to their respective schools.
“We were in the office passed out dead after the event, and a kid called to say that he a great time on the field trip,” Castellon said. “That was cool because we never had a kid call before. It’s an amazing program and the kids are great, and it is so much fun.”
The Kids ‘N Culture executive board are hoping that, in the future, they can organize an event in which the kids read donated books during the six-week mentoring period and then have discussions of the selected book during the campus visit.
“Devoting your time to children is one of the best services you could do,” Tanya Aquino, freshman, said.
LINK will also be having its “Stop, Drop and Run” event, in which drop boxes will be placed in the residential halls during finals so students can donate all of their unwanted school supplies. The supplies will be donated to various agencies that will then distribute it to school children.
For more information on Kids ‘N Culture or LINK, call 305-284-GIVE.

Angelique Thomas can be contacted at