Engaged learning. Inspiring futures. These are priorities here at Barton. Finding creative ways to unite the pedagogical and the practical. A muse-and-use approach, if you will. This is just what Jamaya and her classmates experienced … except Jamaya and her classmates are not Barton students.
Well, not yet.
Jamaya and her fellow pupils are fifth-graders at Sedalia Park Elementary School in Marietta, Ga. Through Jamaya’s writing assignment, Barton was able to play a part in her class’ engaged-learning experience.
Except on Fridays, Sedalia Park requires its students to wear uniforms. To encourage her students to focus on college, fifth-grade teacher Lilly Hanna promised to give her students extra Hanna Bucks, part of a classroom reward system, for wearing college t-shirts or sweatshirts on their dress-down days.
Hanna, a believer in the importance of a college education, creatively transformed a letter-writing project into an opportunity to help the students acquire some college t-shirts while also teaching them procedural writing.
“One of the things I always envisioned was making sure that children understood that college was an option for them and to make sure they knew what it was. And so I saw them wearing college t-shirts. And one of the ways to send the letters out – part of our standards was, you know, learning how to write a business letter; and we’ve also covered persuasive writing. So I mixed the two together, and we were able to get college t-shirts and meet a standard and give the kids information on real life, you know, something that will impact their future,” stated Hanna.
For the project, Hanna directed Jamaya and her classmates to research a state and to write a business letter to one of its colleges requesting a t-shirt.
A former resident of the Tar Heel State, Jamaya chose North Carolina and wrote to Barton College. When asked why she chose Barton, the former Charlotte resident responded, “I found Barton College on the internet and it sounded like an interesting school.”
In her letter, Jamaya explained the purpose for writing: “Our school requires us to wear uniforms except for Fridays. Starting in January, my teacher will give us extra Hanna Bucks if we wear a college t-shirt or sweat shirt on Friday dress down days. I would like to represent your school and promote furthering education throughout my school.
“If you would like to support me please send a t-shirt to my school address in care of my teacher Ms. Hanna.”
Jamaya then provided her size and as well as the sizes of her classmates in case Barton chose to support her entire class.
Mid-December brought Jamaya’s letter to Barton admissions counselor Walt Gryczan.
“I thought it was really neat. … I was touched by it. I thought it was a really cool little story. You know, she wanted a t-shirt. I figured we’d send her one t-shirt, which was the original request; so I thought it was pretty cool. But Amanda [Humphrey, directory of admissions] jumped all over [it]: ‘Let’s make this a big deal, and let’s send everybody in the class the t-shirts.’ And then it just escalated from there,” Gryczan said.
And escalate it did. With donations from different departments, the list of items included such goodies as Barton’s 2007 Division II National Championship t-shirts; “#1” foam fingers; key chains shaped like dog bones; a stuffed bulldog; a copy of “Barton College: Our Century,” which chronicles the history of the college; pens; pencils; cups; jar openers; and refrigerator note clips.
“I was just stunned that so many people started jumping in,” said Gryczan.
Soon the goodies were on their way, and anticipation permeated a certain fifth-grade class in Georgia.
Hanna recalled the excitement her school experienced when the boxes arrived: “[The vice-principal] said, ‘On your lunch break, if you could stop by the office, you have a package.’ And I said, ‘YES!’ And all of a sudden the kids just start screaming. They’re like ‘I know what it is! Our stuff is here!’ So I got them calmed down, … and she said, ‘Ok, well, actually, why don’t you guys just come down now then since you’re so excited?'”
The group arrived in the office to pick up the packages; but as they prepared to leave, they discovered that the excitement had gripped more than just their class. The office staff told them they had to open the boxes there so they, too, could see what had arrived.
“So we opened them in front of the office staff, and everybody was excited. … It didn’t matter what we pulled out of the box. It was just … It was amazing! It was just absolutely amazing to feel like somebody really, you know, cared about you and wanted you to just have a special day!” said Hanna. (Click here to see a photo slideshow of that special day.)
Although “some kids would get a t-shirt here or there” from other institutions, Hanna found it exciting “to see that one school just respond and go above and beyond.”
Hanna perceived in the experience a good life lesson for the students. She said, “Sometimes you’re going to get somebody that, you know, just meets your expectations, but then there are people that will go above and beyond.”
Not long after, Barton heard from Jamaya again. This time she was writing to thank Barton for the things that had been sent and to tell us about the excitement and reaction at Sedalia Park, but what meant the most to us was her closing paragraph:
“Thank you BC, because of you I know a college that believes in me. I will continue to study hard, listen to my parents and teachers, and get good grades. And maybe one day I’ll be a Barton Bulldog. Go Blue and White!”
Jamaya, we are honored that you chose Barton College, and we are touched by your words. Live up to them, and you will be a success.
Ms. Hanna, we are proud of you. Continue to engage your students’ minds. Continue to inspire their futures.
Sedalia Park fifth-graders, in our hearts you are already Bulldogs. Stick with it! Just seven more years, then you can make it official. We’re waiting for YOU!
Questions? Please contact Ken Dozier, web services manager at Barton College, at 252.399.6596 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.