Every child grows up with a dream. A dream to be a firefighter a ballerina or to be just like mommy and daddy. But it’s not so often you hear that a child’s ultimate dream is to go to college. That is the case for the children at the Barry Elementary School in Philadelphia.
If you’ve been around campus any weekend in October or April, you were bound to have seen inner-city students scattered throughout Eastern’s campus. The students from the Barry School, usually fouth graders, make trips twice a year to Eastern for days of academic enrichment and creative workshops, most recently on Oct. 27.
The partnership between Eastern University and The Barry School started in the early 1990’s after the former Barry School burned down. Former faculty member in the Education Department, Lillian McKethan saw it as her dream to have a place where these children could come for a Saturday of academic enrichment at a Christian college.
Now organized by Nancy Thomas and Bill Yerger with a budget given to them by Eastern, the partnership with the Barry School has only grown stronger. But according to Nancy Thomas, the leadership is in the hands of the college students that volunteer for these Saturday events. “The purpose of these workshops with fourth graders is to see the college students in a learning setting,” said Thomas. “[The] intent is to have college student leadership.”
During their most recent visit, the students participted in a variety of creative enrichment workshops. They created pumkpin decorations, participated in theater games and improvised skits by the Eastern students. In the afternoon, they participated in learning workshops centered around social students, geography and created art projects.
Thomas had nothing but good things to say about this fall’s visit. “[The students] eat in the dining room and think its a major recreational event,” said Thomas. This is the second time this group has participated in one of these weekends and there was a much better turnout of 30 students, some of their older siblings and three fathers as chaperones, as well as the principal. It proved that the leadership of the school went out of their way to bring the students to Eastern’s campus.
These children have faced so much adversity in regard to having a stable learning environment. This class has gone to four different schools all before they entered fouth grade. But a new Barry School is under construction and according to Thomas, they are a bright and focused class with many new beginnings in sight.