Friday morning for kindergartners from Caston and Rochester was filled with virtual welding, firing tennis balls, SWAT gear and farm equipment.
It was all to give them a glimpse of some of the programs waiting for them when they get older and start considering post-secondary education.
About 170 kindergartners from the two school corporations visited Ivy Tech Community College’s Logansport campus on Sept. 29.
They hopped off of yellow school buses in front of the building, where they were greeted by pompom-waving college faculty and Ace the husky, Ivy Tech Kokomo Region’s mascot.
The “Promise Indiana: Walk Into My Future” event was part of the Fulton County Promise Program, which the Caston School Corp. and Rochester Community School Corp. received a grant for from Promise Indiana, according to a press release.
The program provides students in kindergarten through sixth grade with Indiana College Choice 529 Savings Plans. The $60,000, three-year grant provides start-up funds for planning, marketing and implementing the program. No grant funds can be used for matching or providing start-up funding for the savings plans.
Kids with college savings accounts are three to four times more likely to attend college, according to the press release.
Betty Martens, convener for the Fulton County Promise Program, attended Friday’s event along with Gloria Carvey, site director for the Ivy Tech Community College Instructional Site in Rochester.
Both spoke to the importance of post-secondary education and saving for it as early as possible. They also emphasized that kind of education doesn’t have to be a four-year degree and that it can also be certificates for skilled trades.
“It really is aimed at everyone,” Carvey said of the program.
Inside one classroom, kindergartners engaged in virtual welding under the supervision of Ivy Tech Community College instructors. They used replicas of welding equipment that projected a simulation of their actions onto a screen at the front of the class, where digital sparks flew.
Up on the second floor of the building, kindergartners gawked at mannequins in hospital beds that nursing students practice their skills on as they waited in line to wash their hands. After scrubbing, Coleen Vaughn, an assistant nursing professor, applied a solution to the kids’ palms and had them place their hands inside a box illuminated by a ultraviolet light, exposing the germs that remained.
Vaughn said she hopes the kids left Ivy Tech Community College on Friday with a little more of an understanding of what goes on on campus, what kinds of programs are offered and the importance of continuing their educations. She said she also hopes they’ll share the news with their parents and possibly inspire them to look into the college if they’ve never pursued post-secondary education or left before finishing.
“It kind of plants a little seed and then it continues on and hopefully we can make a larger impact than we already do,” she said.
Logansport Police Detective Danny Farris, who also works security at Ivy Tech Community College’s Logansport campus, represented the school’s criminal justice program at the event Friday. He had the LPD’s Humvee parked on campus and showed kids SWAT gear like a shield, battering ram and “hooligan bar” used for popping open locked screen doors.
Kindergartners also used their time outside to climb into a combine and tractor under the supervision of Ivy Tech Community College’s agriculture faculty.
On another side of the building, School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering and Applied Technology representatives invited the kindergartners to test their aim by firing a tennis ball cannon at a kiddie pool.
Jessica Rentschler, a kindergarten teacher at Caston Elementary School, and Lisa Zimpleman, whose children attend the school, looked on as kindergartners drew pictures of a police officer, truck driver, rock star and other careers they want to pursue when they grow up. Both said they admire the program.
“I like that they were showing things like welding and that kind of thing too because nowadays… you don’t have to go to college, especially if you’re a small-town kid, because lots of them won’t and their parents didn’t, so they won’t push that,” Zimpleman said.
“But you can come here and you can be a welder and you can have a skilled trade,” she said.
Rentschler said some of the programs presented to the kindergartners Friday were professions they may have already been somewhat familiar with, like agriculture and welding, because their parents or other relatives work in them. Programs like nursing, however, may have been more unfamiliar, she added.
“Once they see that, it opens their eyes that there’s other things out there,” Rentschler said.
Reach Mitchell Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5130