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North Adams Elementary Students Get College Experience
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
01:21AM / Monday, March 25, 2019
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Children in the North Adams schools' Kids 2 College after-school program build papier-mache volcanoes last week at MCLA.



The after-school program provide a range of opportunities for North Adams students. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Kids 2 College after-school program gives city elementary students hands-on STEM experiences in a college classroom.
 
Although it was spring break and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Students were off last week, class was in session in Venable Hall.
 
"We do a lot of project-based learning," Kids 2 College instructor AnnaMaria Sebastino said. "For example, we studied volcanos and today we are building a paper-mâché one … we do a lot of different things."
 
The program is a partnership between MCLA and the 21st Century After-School Program in the North Adams Public Schools. Sebastino said MCLA received the grant through the Help Yourself Foundation to host the program that is now in its fifth year.
 
"Their goal is to inspire elementary school-aged students to want to get into STEM and start thinking about college," she said. "MCLA went for the grant and networked with the 21st Century After School Program."
 
Just over 40 children from Colegrove, Brayton, and Greylock elementary schools attend the after-school program.
 
Noella Carlow, district coordinator for the after-school and summer programming, said the Kids 2 College program is a good example of two educational institutions working together. 
 
"The partnership between North Adams Public Schools and our hometown college MCLA is a great example of community working together toward the goal of providing our youth with the tools to become great leaders as adults," she said.
 
Sebastino said the projects vary and are all hands on. More importantly, the students work in teams and are encouraged to use problem-solving skills.
 
"The Department of Education wants high-quality project-based learning because it gives students opportunities they may not have during a normal school day," she said. "They can make mistakes and come back the next time and work on it again. It evolves over time and gives them the opportunity to problem solve and work together as a team." 
 
Beyond the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects, Sebastino said they want to familiarize the young students with college and get them thinking about the future.
 
"It gives them the opportunity to explore STEM programs and explore different careers," she said. "They also meet college students and learn about different majors…we do a tour of admissions and we talk about financial aid we try to always keep it fun and light but give them those experiences."
 
Even further, Sebastino said the program really shows them that college is attainable. 
 
"Children need to be exposed to college much younger … and programs like this make that possible," she said. "A lot of students don’t feel like it is in their grasp maybe because of where they come from, their background, their family, or whatever it may be. They may not be having this conversation at home or feel they can’t afford it and we want them to know they can go and there are other ways."
 
She added that she hopes the program can empower students.
 
"We want to get them thinking about what they want to be when they grow up and how do they get there now," she said. "They can do anything they want and change it a million times by the time they are in high school."
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