November 30, 2012


Sixth-graders get glimpse of college life

Barry students visit SUNY Cortland

CollegeBob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland student Megan O’Grady, center, along with Barry Elementary School sixth-graders Mario Bernardo, left, and Alvana Schmidt cheer on teammate Gus O’Connell during a relay race. The students were participating in “A Day in the Life of a Cortland College Student” Thursday at the college.

Staff Reporter

Lunch at a SUNY Cortland dining hall, visits to a residence hall room, a lecture hall and the campus police department gave 42 sixth-graders a look Thursday at what college is like.
The pupils from Barry Elementary School in the Cortland city school district spent most of the day on campus, courtesy of students in the Department of Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies, who work with them after school twice per week.
They also spent an hour on team recreation activities at Lusk Field House and asked questions of SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum. A scavenger hunt then took them — in eight groups, accompanied by two college students per group — to Memorial Library, Tomik Fitness Center, the University Police and a double room at Fitzgerald Hall, a residence hall.
Principal Lynn New said the goal was to plant the idea of going to college, for those who might not think about it.
“Every task, every game is related to college,” said junior Cody Petre, from Silver Spring in Wyoming County. “We want the kids to see the size of campus, get a feel for how students are studying hard right now.”
This week and next week mark the end of fall semester, so students have been rushing to finish projects and prepare for final exams.
The 22 recreation majors had worked for eight weeks with fifth- and sixth-graders at Barry and Parker schools, playing games with them after school two days per week. They also spent 20 minutes helping with schoolwork.
The Barry program is called League 56 Academy, the Parker program is called Parker Power. Students worked with Randall Elementary School students last spring.
The after-school activities are part of two courses, one taught by Professor Amy Shellman in programming recreation, the other taught by Professor Brooke Burk in leadership — implementing the programs designed in the other course.
The sixth-graders were accompanied by a group of teachers and parents.
The day started with lunch at Neubig Dining Hall, paid for by the college’s Institute for Civic Engagement and the recreation majors’ student club.
The children were excited to find no limit on what kinds of food they could eat, as opposed to school lunches designed under strict federal standards.
“It was good food, the pizza was great,” said sixth-grader Daniel Ruggiero. He and Jonathan Alteri, who was in his group of five pupils, said they also liked having ice cream.
Drawing stares as they passed college students in classrooms or working in groups in lounges, the group met at Lusk Field House for such exercises as the wheelbarrow walk, the crab walk and jumping.
Bitterbaum met with them for 20 minutes, because the children had asked New if they could meet the college students’ “principal.”
Most of the children raised their hands when Bitterbaum asked if they were going to college. About half raised their hands when he asked who studies hard.
The pupils asked about different careers, a couple of which SUNY Cortland does not offer as a major, such as music, culinary arts and engineering. Bitterbaum said someone could major in engineering after spending three years at SUNY Cortland, then transferring to Clarkson University.
One pupil asked how someone pays for college. Bitterbaum said a family pays gradually, as he has done with his two children. Some boys asked about basketball and other sports at the college.
Bitterbaum said a residence hall is where students live, both men and women, “although not in the same room. Kind of like a big family.”
Rachel Cohen, a junior from Queens, said one girl had already told her that she wants to go to SUNY Cortland.
Petre entertained the pupils with science demonstrations in a Sperry Center lecture hall, at one point making a geyser of soda. The scavenger hunt involved finding a book at Memorial Library, the name of Tomik Fitness Center, and a dragon emblem at one student’s room at Fitzgerald Hall, where SUNY Cortland students were a bit surprised to find elementary students in the hallway.
Ruggiero said the water in the Van Hoesen Hall drinking fountains tasted wonderful. He said the campus was “very tiring,” with so much walking between buildings.
Brian Vonderlin, a junior from Bath who helped to coordinate the day’s events, had to alter the Memorial Library exercise. The second floor was packed with students, studying or working, so he and the other student guides sent the sixth-graders to the education section to find a different book than planned.
He said the SUNY Cortland students would be analyzing the day to see what worked best.


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