Elementary students walk, cheer, dance into future

As more than 1,400 elementary school students filled the MTI Center with eardrum-piercing cheers, Fremont Community Schools Superintendent Bill Stitt seemed to be feeling a twinge of envy.

“I wish I could have done this in elementary and middle school,” Stitt said as he prepared to take part in a Build A Burger competition with other school administrators. “It’s fun to get students together and hyped up with a lot of energy.”

The cheers, Build A Burger and many other activities were part of the annual Walk Into My Future, which brought elementary school students from LaGrange and Steuben counties to the Trine University campus Sept. 20. Though the event featured new venues and several new elements, its purpose remained unchanged: to introduce children to the idea of a college education.

“When we tell kids that college is a possibility for them, we want them to have a visual for what that actually is,” said Lisa Walter, business manager for the Cole Center Family YMCA in Kendallville, which directs the program for LaGrange County schools. “We hope it excites them about their future and what lies ahead for them.”

“Some of these students won’t ever get a chance to experience a college campus with their families, so we want to plant the seed early to help them understand there is something else beyond the end of their school career with us,” said Eva Merkel, superintendent of Lakeland School Corporation.

The day began with second-graders from LaGrange County schools participating in activities in the Keith E. Busse/Steel Dynamics Inc. Athletic and Recreation Center (ARC) operated by Trine athletic teams and academic departments. With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, the ARC offered a welcome change from the football field, host of the event in past years.

Once morning activities were done, the LaGrange County students were led by bagpiper Mark Kays, director of music at Trine, to the MTI Center, where they joined first- and third-grade students from Steuben County. As both groups ate lunch in MTI, students were treated to entertainment including a dab cam, the hokey-pokey and the Build A Burger race.

Following lunch, Steuben County students took their turn with activities in the ARC, and the LaGrange County students took a brief walking tour of campus on the way to their buses.

“We hope walking through campus has a huge impact on students; that they know college is more than just a football field or a track and field area,” said Walter.

Stations in the ARC were designed to introduce students to basic academic concepts or athletic activities. Children built towers and paper airplanes, learned how money works, and participated in other fun activities, assisted by Trine students.

“I’m proud to see some of our former students working with some of the younger students, so those students can connect with an actual person they know who’s at Trine,” Merkel said.

Miss Auburn Cord Duesenberg Brittany Alwine, a Trine University sophomore from Kendallville majoring in exercise science, wore her pageant regalia to the event and interacted with children throughout the day.

Randy Miller, superintendent of Westview Community Schools, said he hopes the event allows his students to have a concrete experience to hold onto when they think about future possibilities.

“This experience will allow them to dream a little bit and look forward to something in their educational career,” he said.

Walk Into My Future is part of the Promise Indiana initiative launched in 2013. The initiative starts the conversation in kindergarten about post-secondary education and careers, so from an early age students learn what is possible for the future.

“We want the kids to get really excited and charged about their future and going to college or any kind of postsecondary education, and see what they can do if they save money and go to college, a two-year school, trade school, whatever that might be,” said Krista Miller, CEO of the Steuben County YMCA, which directs Steuben County Promise. “We want them to be very excited about the opportunities that they have.”

More pictures from the day are available on SmugMug.

Photos by Dean Orewiler and James Tew

Eric Bryan, Fremont Elementary School principal, dives on top of Fremont Community Schools Superintendent Bill Stitt to complete the Build A Burger race during Walk Into My Future.
Miss ACD
Miss Auburn Cord Duesenberg Brittany Alwine, a Trine University sophomore from Kendallville majoring in exercise science, talks with students from LaGrange County schools at Walk Into My Future.
Walk Into My Future
LaGrange County students walk through the Rick L. and Vicki L. James University Center during Walk Into My Future.