For a Gwinnett County elementary school, it’s not too early to tour a college campus


A group of Gwinnett County elementary school students experienced something Friday most students don’t do until much later in their academic careers.

They toured a college campus.

About two dozen Beaver Elementary School students visited Morehouse College near downtown Atlanta, the nation’s only historically black college for men.

The students, all African-American boys, are part of a program that began at the start of this school year called the Young Excellence Society. It was created by Beaver Ridge teacher Dyra Watkins to help mentor the students. The students are in the third, fourth and fifth grades.

The program brings guest speakers who encourage the students to excel in and out the classroom. On Wednesdays, the students wear maroon blazers to school.

Beaver Ridge principal Karen Lillard said they wanted the students to tour a college to encourage the boys. Morehouse officials learned about the program and worked out the details for Friday’s visit. The students got pep talks from Morehouse administrators and this year’s two valedictorians.

“We want them to have goals and dreams about what they want to do,” Lillard said. “You can go to college.” 

Gwinnett school officials said it’s rare for elementary school students to tour a college campus.

Rare, but not unprecedented.

The New York Times reported in 2015 that about 4,000 fourth-graders in California toured a campus, some elementary school students created mock college applications and the University of Maryland had to limit slots on tours because they were inundated with requests.

The University of Georgia’s website has information about how kindergarten students can tour the campus and discuss shapes they see in buildings and surroundings. 

Some colleges prohibit tours to non-high school students, fearing it will encourage admissions anxiety for the younger students, Gawker reported.

Lillard said the visit was intended to inspire the students. One student said he plans to study engineering at Morehouse. Fourth-grader Caleb Dennis wore his Morehouse t-shirt when he returned to Beaver Ridge.

What did he learn?

“To get a good education, you should study hard,” Caleb said.

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