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Middle schoolers say ‘I can do it’ at Iowa State

Students in ISU textiles lab

If young kids can come to Iowa State for a day, spend some time doing hands-on activities and talk to current students and faculty, they just might decide to pursue a college education after they graduate from high school. To test that theory, ISU graduate student Axton Betz brought some middle-schoolers to the ISU campus in August. Although the results won’t be known for these particular eighth graders for five more years, Betz is betting they’ll be more likely to believe they can succeed in college.

That was the goal of  “I Can Do It! Experience Iowa State Family and Consumer Sciences.” Betz received a grant for the project from the Iowa Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and additional support from ISU Extension, the College of Human Sciences Student Services Office and the Department of Apparel, Educational Studies and Hospitality Management.

Betz got the idea based on an earlier experience in Illinois. “I started a 4-H group when I lived in Illinois and the group of kids I attracted were young girls who mostly came from families that were perceived as having less than ideal circumstances by the community.  The goal the kids had for the year was to earn enough money to go see the University of Illinois,” Betz explained. 

With “I Can Do It!” she wanted to reach youth who never may have seen a college before, whose parents may not have attended college — youth who may not have considered that they could get a college education.

Activities included a campus tour; a family and consumer sciences facilities tour; financial aid and family and consumer sciences careers sessions; interaction with college students, recent graduates, faculty and staff; and a hands-on activity in the Iowa State textiles lab. The students in this pilot project enjoyed all aspects of the event, Betz said. She’d like to bring more youth to campus.

“This event was held right after summer graduation and campus felt deserted. In planning any event like this, school schedules have to be taken into account, so it can be tricky to hold an event where participants can get a true sense of ISU and not have to miss their own school activities,” Betz said.

For more information, contact Betz at axton@iastate.edu.

This article appeared in September 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter