April 30, 2005
BY SUSAN KANIA, Special To The Courant
NEW BRITAIN -- Fourth-grader
Connie Ky, 9, seemed right at home as she strolled across the
campus of Central Connecticut State University Friday.With her
Dwight Elementary School classmate Tessa Ridel, also 9, at her
side, she passed by the student center, a bubbling fountain and
a science building before dancing under the lights on the Welte
"I'm happy to be back," said
Connie, who was visiting the New Britain campus for the second
time with Dwight students in kindergarten to fifth grade.
"We got to make up our own dance - it was kind of like
a play, and it was really fun," she said.
More than 500 students from the school in Hartford's South End
and several parents participated in the second annual whole-school
college visit, through a partnership between Dwight and CCSU
sponsored by the nonprofit Foundation for Excellent Schools.
The foundation pairs schools in low-income communities across
the country with nearby colleges and universities to help students
begin their college preparation at an early age. The St. Paul
Travelers and Kellogg foundations are also partners in the Dwight/CCSU
The college students also benefit from the collaboration: 40
CCSU students completed their student teaching or other field
work at Dwight this year.
Dwight Principal Kathleen Greider said the partnership has led
to heightened expectations at the school and made college preparation
part of its everyday culture - starting in kindergarten.
"We want the students to realize that college is a real
place, not just a mythical kingdom that they talk about at school," said
Nancy Hoffman, CCSU professor of teacher education, who helped
organize Friday's visit.
In addition to dancing, Dwight
students visited the university's ceramics lab where they saw
a kiln and pottery wheel and worked with clay. They watched
theater students perform "Seussical
the Musical" and learned about working with computer graphics
and careers in technology.
Fourth-graders such as Fahrudin Omerovic, 11, and Jordan Lee,
10, said they wanted to return to CCSU another day when they
heard about the campus observatory.
"I want to learn more about space and gravity," Jordan
When her second-grade class
stopped at the CCSU library, avid reader and Harry Potter fan
Antuanett Ortiz, 7, said it was the biggest library she'd ever
seen. "It had so many books,
I wouldn't know which one to choose," she said, after viewing
the children's collection.
Other children played tambourines, triangles, bells, drums and
other instruments, as CCSU music majors taught their fellow college
students in a leadership program how to run a children's drum
Miguel Valentin, who works as an auto body technician, was one
of the Dwight parents who attended a presentation about preparing
"I need as much information about going to college as possible
to help my 6-year-old son," Valentin said. "I want
to show him that there are bigger opportunities out there for
The parents heard about savings programs from representatives
of Webster Bank, and how to continue their own education at Manchester
Third-graders from Vanessa
Rollend's third-grade class already seemed well informed for
a "Getting Ready for College" discussion
with Karen Beyard, professor of Educational Leadership.
"We're learning to write essays," said
Justine Rivera, 9. Her classmate Eros Diaz, 10, said they need
to learn how to manage money before going to college.
"If you're a good reader and writer, and good at math,
you're already halfway from Hartford to college," Beyard
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at