When I was in Mrs. McQueen’s second grade class at Jeannette Myhre Elementary School in Bismarck, I never dreamed that someday, as an adult, I would reconnect with my teacher on a professional level. Yet 17 years later, I did just that.
Last year I decided to go into Elementary Education. One of our first field trips was to my grade school. To my surprise and delight, I found some of my teachers still there, including Mrs. McQueen. She hadn’t changed a bit. And she remembered me! I thought, “I still want to be like Mrs. McQueen when I grow up!”
What I didn’t know about was the results of a survey they had conducted several years earlier to learn what their students knew and thought about college. It revealed an alarming number who didn’t plan to go to college. Based on that, the school launched the “Hope for the Future Initiative.”
The aim was to inspire Myhre students to believe they can graduate, and to awaken an understanding of the opportunities available to them in the future. Each grade level class was adopted by a North Dakota college; all except Mrs. McQueen’s class. They still had yet to decide on one, until we came. So, United Tribes Technical College was an obvious choice!
We began planning for a tour of UTTC in the early part of spring semester. I met with individuals who represented various departments of the college and arranged for visits that would connect Myhre students with UTTC.
On March 2, Kara Four Bear, a UTTC alumni, visited the first grade classroom and shared about the importance of going to school and the many opportunities that await them as future college graduates.
The day of the tour came on April 19. Mrs. McQueen and her 20 first graders started at the Skill Center. We were joined by Shyanne Schmalz, UTTC Student Education Association chapter president, Charisse Fandrich, Tivona Lamberth (teacher education faculty), and Leah Hamann. Our first stop was the Art/Art Marketing Program. The students had lots of questions that were answered by Shawn Holz, Colleen Bredahl and Wayne Pruse.
Later we peeked into the cafeteria and went through the co-ed dorm. As we walked the campus, I pointed out the different buildings. Several found it interesting to “live at school.” In the co-ed dorm they seemed impressed by the rooms. Many said they would like to stay in one but a few said they liked living with their parents.
At the Jack Barden Center, Mark Mindt, Associate VP of Career Development, gave them a tour and talked about the importance of going to college. In the education building we met with UTTC librarian Charlene Weiss and Kathy Aller of the Business and Office Department. Teacher pre-service candidate Wylee Bearstail took over leading the tour while I went to class.
The final stop was back at the Skill Center where the first graders met Annette Broyles, her staff and students of the Nutrition and Food Service Program. There they observed the students working alongside a local chef.
As the tour was coming to an end, Colette Wolf, Land Grant Horticulture Extension Educator, led the youngsters to the land grant classroom where they had a nutritional snack and planted corn seeds that they took with them.
I truly enjoyed the opportunity to show the first graders around campus. I especially enjoyed working with my elementary school teacher. My hope for the future is that these young people will continue their education, earn a high school diploma and go on for a college degree. Perhaps the visit to United Tribes will play a role in that.