OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

California first graders have eye on becoming OSU’s Class of 2020

03/12/2009

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Cielo Vista Elementary School may be a long way from Corvallis, but there is a small contingent of passionate Beaver supporters who haven’t even graduated from first grade yet.

These Palm Spring, Calif. kids are already planning on becoming part of OSU’s Class of 2020, and each Friday they don the black and orange OSU T-shirts that they received from Ellen Ford, coordinator of Precollege Programs at OSU. There are a number of teachers across the country who use Beaver merchandise and OSU school spirit to inspire their students, including three schools in Texas.

At Cielo Vista, teacher Jennifer Geyer isn’t an OSU alum, but her husband Erik is (Class of 2002), and she has turned her classroom into a sea of orange and black in the hopes of getting her students enthusiastic about college.

Cielo Vista has a program called “No Excuses University,” which encourages teachers to partner their classroom with a university that strikes for academic excellence. Geyer chose OSU because her husband and other family members had attended the university.

“Our purpose is to teach students, families and community members that all children are capable of endless possibilities,” Geyer said, “therefore removing the stigma of excuses that keep so many of our students from developing their dreams into reality.”

By instilling school spirit into the youngsters, and making them enthusiastic and interested in things like Benny Beaver and OSU football, the students are starting to feel that college is a real possibility for them.

“The prospect of getting to become a student at OSU has been a great motivation for everyone in my class,” Geyer wrote in a letter to Ford.

Geyer uses the kids’ enthusiasm for Benny Beaver in particular to encourage them to be responsible, trustworthy and fair. Those students who meet their character goals each week can earn a special Benny award.

“Our students are growing up to be students you would be proud to have at OSU,” she said.

Each Friday, the school gathers for pep rallies to demonstrate their excitement for learning and their allegiance to their own university.

“Imagine 20 little first graders singing the words to the Oregon State Fight song and chanting “O-S-U” like true future alum,” Geyer said.

The students in Geyer’s class come from mostly lower socioeconomic households, and many are minority students. For many, they may become the first in their families to go to college. Geyer has had parents respond very positively to their children’s interest in OSU. In fact, one parent sent a card to Ford at OSU to personally thank her for sending OSU gear to the classroom.

Ford has begun exchanging letters with the Cielo Vista students, and sends them surprise packages with OSU gear inside. She shares things like her own love of reading, and the things that go on at OSU, from basketball games to scientific research.

Now Ford has a stack of letters from students who tell her everything from their eye color to what makes them special.

“What makes me special is I am a fast swimmer under water,” wrote one. “What makes me really special is I am good at playing basketball,” wrote another.

But what really makes them special is that these 6- and 7-year-olds already have their eyes set on college, and becoming future OSU Beavers.