Cal Day welcomes students from 35 Oakland elementary schools
on April 24, 2018
Josiah Walton, a 9-year-old student who attends Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland, told his mom as he woke up on Sunday morning,“Mom, today is the morning. We have to go!” His mom, Misty Walton, responded: “I already know we are going!” They were excited to join UC Berkeley’s Cal Day event, a day for prospective students of all ages to come tour the campus. She said her son has been waiting for the day, saying things like, “We have three days until we go” and “We have two days until we go.”
Misty Walton had been to campus before, because she has family members who are employees at the university—but she has never had chance to tour the place with her son. “It’s super big,” said Josiah, after arriving at the campus. “I want to know how big. Miles or whatever—all of it!” Josiah said that he wants to take all of the language classes that the university has, such as Spanish and French courses. “He asked me today, ‘How many language classes do you think they have?’” his mother said. “I told him, ‘You can always ask them.’ There’s a lot of things he wants to do.”
The tour was arranged by the Oakland Promise, a partnership between the Oakland Unified School District, the city, and other organizations, which has a goal of ensuring that every child in Oakland graduates high school with the expectations, resources and skills to complete college and be successful in his or her career. The organization runs a “Kindergarten to College (K2C) program,” which supports young children in attending college in the future. “A big part of our program is fostering a college-going culture,” said Mary Padden, a K2C project director at the Oakland Promise. “So, really a visit is something that’s tangible for students. It makes college more real. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to see this amazing university.”
The Oakland Promise had reserved the Heart Field Annex courtyard at UC Berkeley to host students and their families from 35 Oakland elementary schools. More than 700 people joined the tour that day. Once the families checked in, they received campus maps and were matched with tour guides who were UC Berkeley students or alumni. They were also given handouts that contained some examples of questions to ask their tour guides, such as “What is like being a college student or former college student?” “How are you covering the cost for college?” and “What are the admission requirements?”
“A lot of parents, they never been to college tour—they don’t know what questions to ask,” said Lupe Cazares, the K2C coordinator at the Oakland Promise. “I know there’s a family that they never went to school. I can’t even imagine what their minds are going through right now as they are walking around the campus.” Cazares said that the Oakland Promise invited tour guides who speak languages other than English, such as Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese.
Vanessa Chen, a teacher at Think College Now Elementary School in Oakland, brought three families from her school to the tour. Chen had finished her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, so she guided the families through campus by herself. “We are going to the library. Where are we going?” she asked her students. “Library!” responded Jaden Lyons, a 9-year-old student at the school. Lyons said that he has been always excited about going to college because he can learn things and teach his friends. “I want to teach decimals and all kinds of hard stuff,” he said.
“It’s just a whole idea of introducing college to him at an early age, to get to see and experience what it’s like on a college campus,” said Pricilla Wilson, Lyon’s mom. “He can get a chance to see the different things going on.” Wilson said that touring a campus gets kids to pay more attention to college, because they get to see aspects of college life other than just going to classes. “If you just talk about schoolwork and stuff, it doesn’t really motivate them,” she said.
Many parents who came on the tour said that they enjoyed seeing their kids’ excitement. “I think my favorite part was seeing [my son] excited and happy about coming here,” said Janette Gutierrez, who toured with 5-year-old son, Julian Gomez. “I wish he could come to a 4-year school and have a career.” Julian said that “it was fun” to tour the campus and he wants to attend UC Berkeley. “I like seeing him here, and saying that he wants to come here,” added Gutierrez.
The Oakland Promise gives schools funds that they can use to foster a college-going culture in their school. Some schools used the funds to hire buses to travel to Berkeley. “Even though Berkeley isn’t that far [from Oakland], there’s transportation barriers to getting there,” said Ay’Anna Moody, the program Director at the Oakland Promise. “We alleviate many of those by providing transportation to UC Berkeley for all of the parents and students.”
David Silver, the director of education at the mayor’s office, encouraged each group of students and families to think about going to college—“not if, but when.” “We want our kids from all backgrounds expect that it’s not if they will go to college, but when they go to college,” said Silver. “We want college to be an expectation. We want to support them all the way through.”
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