The calendar says it’s time to harvest, but there were some important seeds planted recently on the Simpson College campus.
Call them seeds of hope.
Forty-eight students from an inner-city school and youth program in Des Moines spent a morning on the Simpson campus to tour, participate in a service project and have books read to them.
The idea is to make the students familiar and comfortable with a college environment in the hope that they will envision themselves on a similar campus someday.
“Even if you’re visiting as a kindergartener, it’s planted in your mind,” says Janelle Mueller, program director for Children and Family Urban Movement in Des Moines.
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Simpson College has a long relationship with the organization, which was formerly known as Children and Family Urban Ministries. Simpson students volunteer there before and after school as part of the College’s Religious Life Community.
The College also played a role in the group’s recent name change. When Simpson won the 2012 Battle of the Brands contest, first prize was $5,000 in advertising from Lessing-Flynn, which the College donated to CFUM.
The recent field trip to Simpson began when Mueller was exploring options for fall break. CFUM’s students attend Moulton Extended Learning Center, which is on a year-round schedule and includes a three-week fall break.
Mueller described her wish for a campus visit with Jorie Landers, Simpson’s service coordinator and chapel assistant.
Landers served a summer internship with CFUM and volunteered there as a Simpson student. She still attends church services at Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines, which is where the CFUM offices are located.
“Simpson has had a relationship with them going back at least 20 years,” Landers says. “We thought this would be a great way to show the students that college is a potential future for them.”
Landers then contacted Patti Woodward-Young, a professor of education, who asked the teaching majors in her class if they would like to read to the CFUM students.
They jumped at the chance.
“Every little chance we get to be working with kids can help when we go out to teach,” says Linsey Muller, an education major from Carlisle.
Muller certainly passed the patience portion of her teaching experience. She read for Javion Bell, 8, and Tony Newberry, 5, who had a tough time making up their minds about where they wanted to sit in Buxton Park – sun or shade? – and what book they wanted to read, finally opting for a Disney book, “Friends for a Princess.”
While the kindergarten through second-grade students listened to books being read, the third through fifth graders took a tour of campus.
Mueller reports that the students particularly enjoyed seeing the fish in the library and hearing the legends of the campus seal and how College Hall might be haunted.
After the book reading, the kindergarten, first- and second-graders picked up sticks as a service project.
All of the students enjoyed lunch at the Chris Street Park. Then they returned to the Kent Campus Center, where they received gifts from Simpson’s marketing and admissions departments.
“They loved it,” Mueller says. “They like going to college campuses because they know they’ll be spoiled. But it’s also something they can look at and see and do and know it’s something they can reach for.”
For the Simpson students, Landers says, “it helps make them more aware of the community that we’re living in and that we’re a part of. It will help them be aware of the communities they may be serving some day.”
We’ll give the last word to 8-year-old Javion, who summed up his Simpson Experience this way: “Cool.”