JACKSON, Tenn. – April 10, 2013– A class of Union University's youngest fans performed a college cheer for Robbie Graves, assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions, when he visited their first grade classroom at Maury City Elementary School on a recent winter day.
Lined up outside their classroom, Judy Poston's students were waiting for Graves when he arrived, wearing the Union T-shirts they don each Friday.
“It just melted my heart when I walked around the corner,” said Graves, who gave the students Union mementos, talked to them about Union’s core values and read to them. “Reading to them was so fun. They were respectful and they listened well.”
The initiative is part of the No Excuses University program the entire school, located 30 minutes northwest of Jackson, adopted last August to encourage the students to consider college in the future.
“The idea of promoting college readiness to our students really attracted me because many of our students are from low income families who never attended college,” said Melissa Glenn, the school’s principal.
Each teacher chose a university about which his or her students would learn. Poston, a 1986 Union graduate, chose her alma mater. She talks with students about Union each day, Glenn said.
Poston’s students already know what year they will graduate college: 2028.
“Every morning we have a school wide assembly which we end with a college chant or cheer,” Glenn said. “These chants encourage students to work hard, strive to reach their academic goals and realize that through hard work, they can reach their goal of attending college.”.
When Graves came, the students treated him like a celebrity, since he represented the university they talk about on a daily basis, Glenn said.
Graves said Union has hosted campus tours for younger and younger students in the past couple of years, but Maury City Elementary’s students were by far the youngest talking about college, he said.
After talking about some of Union’s core values and how they apply to elementary school, Graves left through a hallway lined with college banners, hoping to return again soon.
“It felt as if you were leaving some friends and family that you wanted to go back and see again,” he said.
By Samantha Adams (’13)