A College President Goes to Kindergarten to Help Students Think about the Future

Dr. Donald Guy Generals, president of Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), spent part of his morning on November 15 reading to kindergarten students who might just walk the bustling hallways of CCP one day.

His chosen book, titled "Oh Dear, What's a Career?" promotes career awareness to children in kindergarten through second grade. The story discusses a journey taken by a squirrel named POSS and a dog named IBLE on their way to career day. Along the way, they encounter a fox who is a professor, a bird who is a nurse and a cat who paints murals. The book's main message? When you stay in school, you'll see that anything is POSSIBLE.

The College's Marketing and Creative Services team developed the book to promote dialogues about career choices across the city, and, especially, at Spring Garden School, which CCP adopted this past January. The book is just one of the many ways the College supports student success and helps to broaden the pipeline from kindergarten to college. By adopting Spring Garden School, the College's students and staff get a chance to apply lessons from the classroom to service-learning activities.

"Community College of Philadelphia strives to make the city a better place," said Dr. David E. Thomas, dean, Division of Access and Community Engagement, and executive director, Institute for Community Engagement and Civic Leadership. "We don't just want to work with the students who take classes here. We intend to impact the entire city."

Members of the Marketing and Creative Services team joined the activities, and each wore a nametag with the name of their career printed on it. Staff later joined the students as they each colored a sheet depicting the book's lovable characters.

Dr. Ellyn Jo Waller, first lady of Enon Tabernacle Church and president of the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation, sat in a small chair down the hall from Dr. Generals, reading the children's book to a first-grade class. She chatted with students as they pondered their future careers. One child said he wanted to be a soldier. Another yelled, "A doctor." Another decided upon being a basketball player. Then first-grader Autumn Gregg Williams volunteered his future occupation: "A community college teacher," he said.

Research in psychology shows that children create their identities in the elementary school years, including how they understand themselves, relate to others and interact with the world at large. It's at that time when aspirations may become permanently limited by challenging circumstances.

"Some kids are never asked about what they want to be when they grow up. So, they never formulate the idea," said Tammie Coleman, whose kindergarten class was visited by Dr. Generals. "I've been with high school students who have told me that no one has ever asked them what they want to be when they grow up, so they never formulated a plan to work towards," Coleman continued. "This book is good because it will get students to think about career choices early."

The College is working in a number of ways to help students at Spring Garden and elsewhere prepare for a brighter future:

  • In August, members of the College's International Student Association and the Institute for Community Engagement and Civic Leadership hosted a drive to get book bags and supplies for Spring Garden School. One hundred children received new backpacks and supplies and teachers received supply kits for their classrooms.
  • Through a partnership between the College and the School District of Philadelphia, Parkway Center City Middle College offers its students the opportunity to earn an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts as they graduate from high school.
  • The Junior Achievement Initiative with the School District of Philadelphia takes third graders on a tour of the campus and exposes them to career programs at the College. To date, the College has hosted four events with 300 students per event.
  • The College is working with the nonprofit, Healthy NewsWorks, to empower elementary and middle school students to become researchers, writers, critical thinkers and confident communicators. Sixth graders at Spring Garden School are currently participating in this program, and will produce health publications and other types of media for fellow students, and the wider school community.

Every student at Spring Garden School will receive a copy of the book. Additionally, books will be given out at future events and activities with other elementary schools on an ongoing basis. Additional distribution opportunities will be explored as well.

Spring Garden School sits in the heart of Philadelphia's Poplar neighborhood, less than a mile from the College. It serves students from the Richard Allen Homes and the Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence, a homeless shelter for families. The School District of Philadelphia describes the school's 264 students as 100 percent economically disadvantaged.