Former HCPS students return home to inspire young students

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Submitted by Sandy Powell

Henry County Public Schools

What better way to learn about college than from a student who has been there and experienced it?

With many recent Henry County High School graduates home for Christmas break, the elementary schools took advantage of the opportunity and asked these college students to speak to elementary classes about their college experience.

“It was awesome!” exclaimed Susan Kurtz, second grade teacher at Campbellsburg Elementary School. “I loved seeing former students and allowing them to share with our current students about the college experience.  My students are now excited and talking about college and what they want to do when they grow up.  We for sure need to have alumni visit again.”

Twelve Campbellsburg Elementary alumni who are now in college visited individual classrooms, shared valuable information and answered many questions.  The alumni were Will Lyle, Amber Aneszko, Cassie Fischer, Christina Calhoun, Danielle Roberts, Jake Hartledge, Jessica Booher, Julie Wiseheart, Justin Hartledge, Nick Suter, Ryan Garrett and Shelby Grigsby.

Tricia Miracle, a Campbellsburg Elementary parent, praised the activity.  “I was very pleased that the 5th graders had the opportunity to hear about the college experience from CES alumni,” she said. “The kids know and look up to these young adults in their community, and these positive role models are a valuable asset. It is never too early to begin preparing children for college and careers, and CES consistently encourages forward thinking and skill development to promote readiness for the future.”

Campbellsburg Elementary teacher Katy Paas affirmed that her second graders are now excited about college.  “The visit by college students was great!” she said.  “My college student was patient and able to explain ALL the answers to the many questions my class had.  I was impressed!  My students are excited about college and can’t wait to go.”

The visits by college students have reinforced the other activities going on in the classrooms to promote college readiness.  “I thought the college student visits were a good way to integrate student information with the current research the classes are doing on a college or university,” said Teresa Magers, fourth grade teacher at Campbellsburg. 

“The students have a better understanding of class sizes at colleges, responsibility for class attendance, the length of time students need for traveling to classes, and how colleges offer different courses at different times. My class developed an understanding for having a degree with a minor and a major,” she said.

On a humorous note, Dawn Scroggins said her kindergarten class was excited about some things and reserved about others:  “They especially enjoyed hearing that they got to make their own decisions, such as what to eat for lunch and when to eat it.  Wow!  They were not as excited by the idea of not living with their parents.  They do not totally understand the idea of ‘higher education,’ but it has been planted in their heads.”

Campbellsburg Elementary principal Mark Johnson is pleased with the emphasis on college at the elementary level.  “There is so much talk about college at Campbellsburg this year,” he said.  “Our students are starting to understand that to be successful they need to further their education and they see that hard work in the classroom will translate to success in the future.”

New Castle Elementary also recently had a visit by college students Emily Hensley, Jasmyne Rice and Sarah Lineman, NCES alumni, and Will Lyle, CES alumnus.  “They spoke to fourth and fifth grade students about several aspects of college, including applications, admissions, schedules, classes, majors, housing, roommates, studying abroad, and the importance of working hard throughout school,” said Lori Duvall, school counselor.  “After their presentation, students had the opportunity to ask questions. Several students wrote thank you letters to the college students after their visit.”

One of the goals of the College and Career Readiness plan being implemented in the Henry County Public Schools is to develop a college-going culture among all students.  The visits by college students support this goal.  Other activities being implemented at New Castle, Campbellsburg and Eastern Elementary to achieve this goal include visiting a college campus, researching colleges and universities in the region, beginning to understand admission requirements  and the application process.