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College of Education students inspire children to pursue higher education through partnership with Abernathy ISD

College of Education students inspire children to pursue higher education through partnership with Abernathy ISD

By Sharon Woodall, Ed.D.

A little over a year ago, Sara Muse, a teacher in Abernathy ISD, contacted faculty in the College of Education about creating a partnership with her fourth-grade class. Located in West Texas, the 2A district has experienced recent commercial growth due to its accessibility to the railroad. However, teachers in the district are concerned that most students are unaware of higher education opportunities.

“Abernathy Elementary is a small school with approximately 70 students per class. Of those, over 50 percent are on free or reduced lunch, and around 60 percent are considered ‘at-risk’ of failing or dropping out. We are determined to do everything we can to end the cycle that many of our students are in,” Muse said.

The teachers of Abernathy Elementary introduced their students to six different higher education schools this year. They decorated part of the classroom with the school colors, brochures, and banners. The children learned the school’s songs and got the chance to interact with college students through pen pal programs.

“We want our students to be exposed to different universities so they can begin thinking about college,” Muse said. “In my opinion, college is a means to both advance academically and build character.”

Muse selected Mary Hardin-Baylor in honor of her paternal grandmother, who graduated from Baylor Female College in 1927.

The College of Education faculty have involved each of their classes with projects for Muse’s class.

Carolyn Owen’s classes wrote pen pal letters to each student, describing why they chose to attend UMHB and what their experiences have been like.

Austin Vasek’s master’s students sent decorated journals for each student to encourage them to develop their writing skills.

Jodi Pilgrim’s classes created bookmarks, Joan Berry’s classes provided Scholastic magazine subscriptions, and Judy Trotti’s classes wrote letters sharing their favorite children’s book with each student.

Carolyn Allemand’s classes made children’s book activities, Christie Bledsoe’s classes created math manipulative materials, and Kris Ward’s classes raised money for sports items.

Sharon Woodall’s classes shared videos of the campus, digital learning resources, and a scrapbook of information about the university.

Karen Estes’s classes sent a UMHB T-shirt activity, and Jeff Russell’s classes worked on activities related to diversity and culture.

“My students have really enjoyed this partnership,” Muse said. “UMHB has gone out of its way to make this partnership the best in our school, and that is no exaggeration.”