Posted March 27, 2013

Student government leader encourages local children to consider college

Several children gather in a small classroom at the Women’s Christian Alliance (WCA), preparing to start an art project. But before they can reach for markers, crayons and other supplies, a group of Temple students enter the room.

“There’s been a change to our schedule,” announces WCA administrator Patricia R. Terrell. “Today we have a group of Temple University students visiting to talk to you about the importance of college.”

Ofo Ezeugwu, a senior entrepreneurship major in the Fox School of business, starts the conversation with a question: “What do you guys want to be when you grow up?”

Hands shoot in the air, the children anxious to share their dreams. One student wants to become a basketball player, another wants do nails. There’s a potential beautician and another student who wants to be an Italian chef.

Helping school children develop and pursue high aspirations is the purpose of Kids-to-College, a program Ezeugwu conceived while volunteering in local schools. He realized that many of the students he worked with didn’t know where to start when it came to planning for college.

“The goal is to open up their eyes to what’s possible,” he said. “We just want them to realize that higher education is a viable opportunity and is definitely available to them.”

Ezeugwu originally designed the program to bring the middle and high school students to Main Campus to attend classes or sporting events. However, when the cost to obtain safety clearances for those working with school-aged children proved too high, he decided to take the program into the community.

Throughout the semester, Ezeugwu and a rotating group of students are hosting workshops in high schools and community centers across North Philadelphia.

To help relay the overall Kids-to-College message to students in the WCA afterschool program, Ezeugwu recruited Desmon Hickson, a computer engineering major who speaks Japanese; Morgan Jenkins, a sports marketing major who hopes to soon intern with the Philadelphia 76ers; and Ashley Celestin, a public relations major who plans to help brand high-end designers in the global market.

Each spoke to the class about the importance of beginning to think about their future now.

As their time together came to a close, a small hand raised in the air for a final question.

“But, what if my brain isn’t smart enough to do what I want to do?” asked 9-year-old Tyreyanna Henry-Garris.

“Your brain is as smart as anyone else’s,” Ezeugwu responded. “You’re very smart, you’re only not smart enough if you think you’re not smart enough.”

It’s a message the group hopes will stick. The earlier you reach children, the more impact you will make when it comes to encouraging students to think about their future and what they hope to accomplish as adults, said Jenkins, a Baltimore native.

“My mom was the first in her family to attend college and it meant a lot to her and her family,” he said. “Watching her and knowing that her college degree gave her an opportunity to build her future was what motivated me.”