When second grade students from Geneva’s West Street School and St. Francis – St. Stephen’s School arrived at the Vandervort Room for the Geneva 2020 program on May 5, they happily took their places at the tables awaiting them. As it turned out, most had been to the Colleges before. But organizers of the campus visit, including Katie Flowers, director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning, wanted to provide the young students with a more personal view of college – that it is something they all should consider in their dreams for the future.
Before sending the roughly 200 students and teachers to sessions on empowerment, careers, culture, and the environment, President Mark D. Gearan noted that “At Geneva, there are really good teachers who care about students, want you to succeed, and work very hard. We’re lucky to live in a community where teachers are so invested,” he said. “The Geneva 2020 initiative is essentially all of the community coming together to help you.”
Outside on Stern patio, Nadia Harvieux, education program manager for the Finger Lakes Institute at HWS, introduced students to the idea of environmental stewardship and discussed why rain was important. Using hand rubbing, clapping and stomping, Harvieux taught students to make a rain storm, beginning with a quiet rain and progressing to a thunderous roar, then fading back to a quiet rain before stopping.
“Rain can create problems like erosion and flooding and pick up different pollutants and carry them into the lake,” said Harvieux. “That’s why it’s important to learn and to care about the environment. Rain affects the lake, our resource, and so it affects all of us.”
Fulbright Teaching Assistant in French Mandy Francis began the program on cultures and travel by asking students if they could guess what country she is from, based on her accent. Once Francis said “Bonjour,” all hands flew skyward and the children guessed France.
Francis explained she didn’t know English when she first arrived in the United States and had to learn it to communicate with her roommates, all four of whom came from different countries. “English was the only language we had in common so I had to learn,” she said.
Program Coordinator for the Center for Global Education Doug Reilly told the children that more than half of the HWS students would spend four months living in another country and speak a new language. “That’s one of the opportunities you might be able to take advantage of if you go to college,” he said. “You may be able to live and study in another country, eating their food and speaking their language.”
“I hope when you go to college you’ll meet kids from all over the world,” said Director of International Students David Gage ’91, who told the students that there are 100 students from more than 30 countries at HWS. “When I went to West Street School I always wanted to go to India. I hope you are already thinking about the world and where you’d like to go someday.”
Students wrapped up the session by creating their own ‘luggage tags’ that designated where in the world they wanted to travel.
Former Geneva City Schools teachers Shayne Feinberg, program coordinator with CCESL, and Jen Harris, director of elementary education and coordinator of field supervisors in the education department at HWS, led a session on leadership and future careers titled, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The second graders learned about goal setting from HWS students and then had an opportunity to draw a picture of themselves in their future careers. The drawing was collected and will be returned when the students come back to campus as sixth graders.
In a class taught by Amanda DeMaria ’05, student Nathan Price is hoping to become a soldier in the Army, “like my dad and my uncle and my other uncle.” Bethany Martin drew herself as a dentist and Aniya Rowe wants to “play on the Dallas Cowboys” someday. As they shared their pictures, DeMaria told her students they could go to “any one of hundreds of colleges across the country.”
Taking to Stern Lawn, Janet VanLone, personal empowerment program instructor for the Center for Counseling and Student Wellness, asked the students to think of someone powerful. When popular figures such as Superman, Hulk and a professional wrestler were among those mentioned, VanLone explained, “You are all powerful on the inside. When you can learn how to use the inside power, you can feel better and have better relationships,” she said.
VanLone then had students play a number of games that reinforced cooperation and communication skills.
The Geneva 2020 initiative is rooted in the collective impact model aimed directly at ensuring that students in the local community have the skills necessary to graduate from high school and to effectively pursue college. The program has already helped move the local high school graduation rate from 70% in 2010 to 82% in 2013, and to increase the number of local high school students entering college from 74% in 2009 to 76% in 2013. This year, the School District increased its national standing in U.S. News and World Report moving from 141 to 114 in the list of public schools in New York State.