When Christina Chin and other Greenfield Community College students visit first grade classes at Greenfield’s Federal Street School each month to provide workshops for the young students, on the surface they’re teaching the children about where rocks come from or how stories work. But, whatever the specific focus of the day’s lesson, the message they convey is, “It’s never too early to learn about college.” Their work is geared toward K-12 success and promoting interest in college.
Talking with first graders about college?
Christina Chin, 39 of Greenfield, is a GCC student and a Massachusetts Campus Compact Americorps*VISTA volunteer who coordinates the program. She explained, “Previously, educators thought it best to promote college prep in high school. Now, they understand that the earlier children are exposed to the possibility of college, the better. Children who understand what college is have more success in school.”
What do you say to a first grader about college?
The GCC volunteers talk about what you do in college, how college students study some of the same subjects as the first graders (math, reading, science). Some children in first grade already think they won’t go to college. One boy said “I want to be an actor, so I won’t go to college.” The GCC volunteers said, “You can do that in college! You can take classes in acting and act in college plays.” The first graders also learn that people of a wide range of ages go to college and study a variety of subjects. For example, some children didn’t know men could be nurses.
Christina studies Business Management at GCC and plans to transfer to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Isenberg School of Management to study accounting. During her year of volunteer service as a MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, she works in GCC’s Office of Student Activities & Community Service with the program geared toward Federal Street School first graders and as a resource for students interested in volunteering in the community. Christina’s position is funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Campus Compact, a nonprofit coalition of 70 college and university presidents committed to developing the civic engagement skills of students, building partnerships with the community, and integrating civic engagement with teaching and research.
Christina said, “This work energizes me, I love it. My parents didn’t go to college, going to college wasn’t a big deal when I was growing up. Then, my younger cousins and aunt went to college and I realized you’re never too old to go to college. I have always looked for ways to give back to my community, to make a positive contribution to my community and myself. I volunteered in high school, and throughout my life. No matter how big or small, there is something you can do.”
Who joins Christina in her work with the young children?
GCC students from a range of majors including nursing, education, science, and business, including:
- A 21-year-old GCC Student Senator and science major. After volunteering at GCC’s Read-Across-America Day event, he wanted to do more service learning. His face glowed when the first graders cheered about studying science.
- An international student in her early 20s who wants to be a teacher. In her second year volunteering, she loves making lesson plans. The Federal Street School students know her from last year.
- A student in his mid-20s. He read the volunteer opportunity description, liked the focus of the program, and immediately signed up. The kids at the school love him.
Mary McEntee, GCC’s Coordinator of Student Activities and Community Service, said
“This program is an investment in the Greenfield community. It’s beneficial to the Federal Street School children and creates a sense of community and responsibility among the GCC student volunteers. The program is greatly enriched by Christina’s background in art and previous work experience along with her being a parent of a child in the Greenfield Public Schools. She has plans for the GCC Martin Luther King Day Celebration that combine her passion for history and her background in art.”
Want to join Christina and the other volunteers?
Christina will offer training in Campus Compact’s College Positive Volunteering program during the fall and spring semesters. The next session will be Monday, Nov 28, from 9 to 11a.m. Upcoming volunteer opportunities for GCC students include:
Monthly programs with first graders at Federal Street School
- In January, GCC will host a Martin Luther King Day event on campus open to the whole community, including activities for young children, older children, and adults. To learn more visit http://www.gcc.mass.edu/student-development/martin-luther-king-jr-celebration/
- March 1 is Read Across America Day and local first graders will come to the GCC campus for events.
Many volunteers are needed. For information, contact Christina Chin at 413-775-1378 or ChinC@gcc.mass.edu or contact the Office of Student Activities & Community Service (C216) to schedule a CORI check and volunteer training.
By Mary McClintock, ’82