Fifth graders get jump on college education

March 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most college scholarships are awarded to high school seniors, but on Thursday a class of fifth graders from a neighborhood in Oakland received an early gift to help them pay for college.

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From the moment they enter the classroom, a group of fifth graders has college on their minds. After all, the name of their public school is "Think College Now."

On Thursday, these Oakland kids got a little closer to realizing their dream. Forty-eight fifth graders received each a $1,000 college scholarship.

"So when we talk to kids, hey it's time to go to college, they need to know that they actually have something tangible, $1,000 waiting for them that if they do their part, we'll do ours," said David Silver, the Think College Now school principal.

Silver has been doing his part. Every year he challenges the kids to participate in a reading marathon. In return, he puts on a show. This one show was on the school's roof on a hot day three years ago.

The $1,000 scholarships will be held in escrow. The students will have access to the money once they are accepted to college.

"I want to have all my education and get a good job and support my family," said Shai Johnson, a fifth grader.

The scholarships are given out by the East Bay College Fund. It helps kids in underserved communities in Oakland and Emeryville pay for college.

"The sooner we can get the youngest ones among us to think about the fact that there is entire community embracing them committed to their success not just entering college, but through completing college," said Michele Davenport, from the East Bay College Fund.

Mario Valadez got his scholarship pledge two years ago. He offered his advice.

"Try your best because they already gave you the push, so if you push yourself you are going to be able to go to college," said Valadez.

With the money, comes hope for a better future.

"I would like to be a lawyer or the president," said Johnson.

It's just seven more years to go, before they make it into college.

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