Barry School students experience college life

Not every elementary school has the educational resources and facilities that elementary schools surrounding Eastern do. Because of this, for about 12 years Eastern has cultivated a partnership with the Barry School, a city school in Philadelphia.

From this relationship spawned such programs as Fall Festival Day, held on October 15. Barry School fifth-graders were bussed to Eastern’s campus for a few hours of educational activities that were designed to be fun and hands-on.

“We do this to share the love of learning with hopes that it will be contagious,” Nancy Thomas said. She is an English professor who has been involved with the Barry School program since very early on.

According to Darlene Beasley, principal of the Barry School, events like Fall Festival Day get the students to start thinking about college as a viable option for their futures. She hopes that eventually such programs will be available to all of the students in the Barry School. This way, as the students progress through each grade, they will continually be exposed to college.

Fall Festival Day was led by Thomas and education professor Bill Yerger. In the morning, the students decorated pumpkins, and biology professor Dave Hoferer led the students on a nature walk. After lunch in the Dining Commons, the students drew with chalk pastels, an activity organized by Maggie Reed-Brooke, who teaches textiles at Philadelphia University. Also, some of Eastern’s education majors helped the Barry School students perform a number of science experiments.

Barry School fifth-graders Aleaha Rivera, Tyheema White and Hanief Graves all agreed that the science experiment of making “gunk” was their favorite activity of Fall Festival Day, because it was “messy.”

Sophomore Nick O’Ryon has been helping out with Barry School activities ever since Thomas got him to volunteer for one last year.

“It always goes well,” he said. “I think it’s a totally different environment for [the Barry School students]. They get latched on to whatever you put in front of them.”

Thomas noted that the interaction between Eastern and the Barry School is not just helpful for the Barry School students but for Eastern students as well. It gives Eastern students a glimpse of what inner city schools and students are like.

First-year Kayla Nelson volunteered to help with Fall Festival Day as part of her service learning requirement.

“After getting attached to the kids, I want to go work in the school and stuff, because [the kids] are really sweet,” she said.

“It’s not easy coming into the city and working with the schools, but [Eastern] has stuck with us,” Beasley said. “I know that every college can easily give back to the community…. I think Eastern is giving beyond and above the norms of giving back.”

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