Lovejoy and Rex Mill middle schoolers took part in various science and technology projects during the Second Annual University for Parents and Students Saturday at Clayton State University. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
MORROW — Children who are told they can go to college and given the tools to prepare for the experience are likelier than their peers to succeed once they get there.
One program created by Clayton State University’s Dr. Lila Roberts rests upon this premise.
“We’re creating a college-bound culture in Clayton County,” said Roberts, dean of the college of information and mathematical sciences.
Some 50 students and their parents from Rex Mill and Lovejoy middle schools attended the Second Annual University for Parents and Students Saturday at Clayton State.
Roberts said the objective of the experience is to inform parents and help them encourage their children at an early age that college is attainable and can be financed through planning. She said the event offers cursory information on the college admissions and financial aid process.
“We’ve got to start that early,” said Roberts. “We want parents to also realize there are opportunities for lifelong learning.”
Parent Alicia Hopkins said the idea is precisely why she and her 13-year-old daughter turned out early Saturday morning to take part in the event.
“I want her to be exposed to everything they have to offer,” said Hopkins, who has two older sons attending college in South Carolina.
Her daughter, Mayya Hopkins, is an eighth-grader at Rex Mill whose perspective of college is limited to interactions with her older brothers studying out-of-state.
“I think it will be the place to be,” said her daughter, who is looking forward to the freedoms a college experience will provide her. She said she is weary, though, about security on open college campuses.
The young Hopkins said she knows she has to maintain good grades and be involved in school activities in order to make it to college. But she may not know how those things help prepare her for the experience.
Clayton State senior Michael Ngo said involvement in school activities has helped him become a better student. The 2010 Morrow High School graduate plans to transfer to the Georgia Institute of Technology next year to complete a dual bachelor’s degree in mathematics and electrical engineering.
Ngo volunteered to give computer gaming and robotics demonstrations to middle schoolers at Saturday’s event, which was also designed to encourage students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields, also known as STEM fields.
While parents learned about financial aid planning and the college admissions process, their children were having fun in the computer labs. They interacted with college students not too far removed from middle school themselves, said Jay Terry, the assistant dean of the college of information and mathematical science.
“Our younger students can relate to middle schoolers,” said Terry. “We’re really trying to engage students in STEM activities so that they pursue STEM-related careers.”
Rotimi Olotu, sophomore computer science major, was among about a dozen other student-volunteers in Clayton State’s college of information and mathematical sciences. He engaged middle schoolers in the computer gaming activities.
“When you see children getting into (the college experience) this early, it’s good knowing you’re giving them that exposure,” said Olotu. “It’s joy to help them learn.”
Olotu said he learned some things too.
“I did some researching about what’s happening in the gaming development world,” he said. “I also learned about how to be effective in the classroom. Although teachers make it look easy, it’s not that easy.”
Conner Lewis volunteered to give students a demonstration in robotics.
“The hands-on aspect opens a lot of doors for the future,” said Lewis. “It helps me learn what I want to do as a computer science major.”
Cory Watson volunteered in the parent sessions.
“I learned there are some pretty dedicated parents,” Watson said. “They want to put in the efforts for their children.”