Northern hosts College Day for elementary students

Northern hosts College Day for elementary students

Northern Elementary School students, wearing donated T-shirts from colleges across the U.S., participated in a College Day assembly on Feb. 5. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – It’s never too early to start thinking about college.

That’s why Erin Illuzzi organized a College Day at Northern Elementary School last week to introduce students to the concept of college.

Illuzzi said elementary-aged students are often asked about what they want to be when they grow up. “We want to introduce a way they can get there,” she said.

She got the idea from a PTA Facebook page after another Title 1 school, which receives federal funding to assist with a high low-income student population, hosted a college spirit day and posted about it.

As part of the effort to inspire students to consider college, Illuzzi decided to start a college T-shirt drive for Northern’s own College Day.

“We couldn’t just ask the kids if they own a college T-shirt,” she said. Instead, they tapped the school community to reach out to their alma maters for shirt donations, receiving 728 shirts from approximately 40 schools across the country.

“Those that didn’t send shirts sent swag,” said Illuzzi, who was overwhelmed by the response, which provided all 550 Northern students with a T-shirt.

Last Wednesday, Feb. 5, students wore their new shirts for a College Day assembly, during which they were introduced to the idea of college in a palatable way for their age group.

“Look at all of these college students,” Illuzzi said to the students at the assembly, explaining that, while not everyone attends college, she did so to “learn more about the world, different cultures and crime.”

“I took a lot of different classes,” she told students, including a piano class, one on art history, another about life as a woman 1,000 years ago, and even a class on vampires, witches and werewolves.

The students clapped when she named some of the topics she’d studied at the College of New Jersey. “You don’t need to clap,” she said with a smile. “You can go to college to learn about whatever you want to learn about.”

“One thing about having a goal is imagining yourself achieving that goal. If you’re dressed like a college student it’s easy to imagine yourself as a college student,” she said.

During the assembly, she played a brief video explaining some of the benefits of a college education. At the conclusion, Illuzzi said the takeaway for elementary-aged students is that they can prepare for college now by reading, working hard in school and giving back to their community.

“The road to college starts right here at Northern,” she said. “If you read, work hard and help others, you’re going to do a great job no matter what you do in the future.”

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NOTE: A previous version of this story listed Erin Illuzzi as president of Northern's PTA. The current co-presidents are Victoria Boulis and Lindsay Sullivan.

Fourth- and 5th-graders Brooke Tillson, Hazel Fasano, Nora McNulty, Dennis Lawson, Evan Eddy and Sara Petrescu show off their T-shirts donated by Vanderbilt University.
Northern Elementary School 2nd-grade student Jayden Voisinet, wearing a shirt donated by the U.S. Coast Guard, poses with Northern’s AssISTANT Principal John Connell, an alumnus of Providence College, during College Day.
Danika Denham, Anna Danis and Emmalyn Araujo sport shirts from Northeastern University, College of the Holy Cross and the University of Rhode Island during Northern Elementary School’s College Day.