Alec Tebben | Echo
Even if we don't always like to admit it, Taylor is a great place. Attending college is something we can take for granted. But for some children, going to any college - much less Taylor - is an opportunity they don't even know they have.
That's something that the Taylor Education Department is collaborating on with local schools to change. This past Tuesday and Wednesday, the department welcomed students from local elementary and middle schools to campus as part of a program called "Walk into My Future," which aims to educate students about the possibilities of life after high school.
"The hope today is that students leave knowing just a little bit of what college is and that if they want to, they can achieve a college education someday," said West Jay Middle School principal Mike Crull.
On Tuesday, kindergarten students from Blackford County elementary schools visited campus. After a quick campus tour, the students engaged in other activities. They made books about staying in school and saving money for college and listened to stories read to them by Quinn White, an education professor whose specialties include children's literature.
But the real fun part was Zumba. Taylor students led the kindergartners through a song that used the tune of "Shut Up and Dance," the popular song by band Walk the Moon. However, the original lyrics were substituted for ones about Taylor.
To close the day, the students gathered together for a rally. They listened to a short talk about the importance of doing something post-high school, and they ate lunch and interacted with the Taylor Trojan mascot.
On Wednesday, sixth graders from Jay County middle schools visited. After a longer and more thorough campus tour led by education majors, they ate lunch in the Dining Commons then headed to their own version of the rally before leaving.
The "Walk into My Future" program will hopefully encourage students to start making specific plans following high school graduation.
It's possible that very few of the students who visited campus on Tuesday and Wednesday will come back to Taylor.
"We want this to be an experience where these kids, these kindergartners and sixth graders, talk to college students to find out what's college like," Education Department Chair Ben Hotmire said.
But that's not the point of the program. "Walk into My Future" isn't a Taylor recruitment program. It's much bigger than that. It's about the futures of our community's children, whether those futures involve attending Taylor or not. Visiting Taylor's campus is simply one way to stir up dreams for the future.
Another important aspect of the program is educating children and their parents about a plan known as a 529 college savings plan. These plans allow families to make payments into accounts to save money for college.
"So, it's kind of like your 401(k) that people save for retirement," Hotmire said.
Introduction to the 529 plan coupled with a visit to a real university are practical steps for young students to take as they grow closer to life after high school.