A dozen fourth-grade students from Glenn Dale Elementary School are weaving, crocheting and drawing their way to college — one headband, bracelet or bookmark at a time.
The craft club’s inventory of student-created bottle-cap bracelets, small bags, decorated pens and framed drawings will be sold at Thursday’s talent show to offset part of the cost of the students’ trip to visit two New York City universities in November.
“The college we go to might be the one I go to in real life, and I want to narrow my choices,” Beulah Irabor, 10, of Bowie, said as she spiraled a lanyard around a pen.
Beulah, who predicted the pens would be the biggest seller, said she is excited to visit New York University and Columbia University, where she might want to study to be a teacher, a designer or a singer.
The trip prompts students to think about college early, and their fundraising efforts teach them business skills, said Theresa Surmanek, a fourth-grade teacher at Glenn Dale Elementary, who is overseeing the club.
“You have an idea, and there needs to be follow-through,” she said of what the students are learning from their venture. “You have to work to make it happen.”
The college tours for third- through fifth-grade students are the initiative of Principal Jacqueline Marshall, who is finishing her first year at Glenn Dale Elementary.
“I wanted students to have an awareness of the different universities they could attend,” Marshall said. “When students actually go and walk the grounds, [college] becomes something more tangible than an abstract idea.”
Students not only see college is a real possibility, but also hear about institutions they might not already know and learn what it takes to be admitted to college, Marshall said. Parents also are beginning to see the benefits of students thinking about college early, she said.
The fourth-grade students have not yet set a goal for how much money they would like to raise, but all profits from craft sales — where items cost from $1 to $5 — will go toward the general fund for the estimated $300-per-student cost, which parents pay, of the overnight trip, Surmanek said.
Thirty-two students visited the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia this school year, and teachers would like to take 75 to New York next school year, Surmanek said. Student participation in the tours, however, will depend on the success of fundraising efforts, which ideally would bring in enough money to make the trip free for students, she said. Teachers and parents accompany students as chaperones.
Parents like Laurela Stephenson of Bowie have volunteered to help with fundraising and securing sponsorships from businesses and organizations for the trip.
Matthew, Stephenson’s third-grade son, and other Glenn Dale Elementary students have suggested car washes and garage sales as ways to raise money for the trip.
Students also are looking forward to seeing landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Stephenson said. In Philadelphia, the students visited the Franklin Institute, a child-friendly science museum.
“He’s being given this opportunity to see what college is at 8 years old,” Stephenson said. “This is an opportunity to visit different colleges ... and see what is in that city, the history of that city.”
And more than 20 fifth-grade students proposed to create items like wallets made of duct tape to contribute, although they will leave Glenn Dale Elementary at the end of this school year and will not go on the New York City trip, Surmanek said.
“It’s helping everybody,” said Abdulai Bah, a fourth-grade student from Greenbelt. “If we want to go [on the college tour], we should share it with our friends.”
Abdulai, 9, who created several beaded bookmarks using patterns his math teacher provided, said he wants to start thinking about college now, not during his senior year of high school.
“[College] is going to be here before they know it,” Surmanek said. “College tours help them understand why they’re working so hard today.”