When did you start thinking about higher education?
First- and second-grade students at Lincoln Elementary School in Bellwood already picture themselves on college campuses, thanks to some assistance from students in the Open Doors project, part of the NIU College of Education’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.
Because some children at Lincoln already doubt that higher education is a possibility for them, NIU Early Childhood Education majors help them to create “vision boards.” The Bellwood children love working with these Huskies, who themselves report proud tears and warmed hearts when the vision boards are presented to the class.
Under the leadership and direction of Natalie Young, an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Special and Early Education, the NIU students made three visits this fall to Lincoln, where second-graders spoke of their aspirations of being a baker, an astronaut, a police officer and a veterinarian.
Open Doors also leads to “open eyes” among Young’s Educate Local participants, who see the need for teachers in low-income and diverse schools.
This fall’s Open Doors culminating event took place Oct. 9, when Bellwood children, their teachers and parents visited the NIU campus.
NIU provided a warm welcome, and the ECE students guided a walking tour of campus with stops at Founders Memorial Library, Altgeld Hall, the Holmes Student Center, Neptune Hall North, the early childhood faculty offices in Gabel Hall, the Learning Center, the dance and ballet studio and the Child Development and Family Center.
“The annual visit from our second-graders at Lincoln is transformative for all involved,” Young says.
“Our Early Childhood candidates are excited, Lincoln students are excited, parent chaperones are excited, and all throughout campus they run into amazing staff and students who welcome them,” she adds. “Being a part of an underserved community, most of these students are not offered regular opportunities to visit colleges and universities. We believe that offering our candidates this unique experience to support young children and plant positive seeds is what the Open Doors project is all about.”