This summer, nearly 200 kids went to college — but none of them had their high school diplomas yet.
In a joint effort between Yavapai College and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, the College for Kids program offered a host of summer classes in subjects such as science, technology, nature, art and writing for kids age 5 to 17 at the college’s Verde Valley campus.
At its meeting Aug. 3, the COCSD Governing Board and superintendent Steve King recognized those involved for their work in making the summer program a success.
“Yavapai College has done an amazing job supporting Mr. King’s vision and our district’s vision of getting students on a college campus from pre-K through eighth grade,” said Heather Wacker, Cottonwood Middle School assistant principal and College for Kids coordinator.
Several representatives of Yavapai College came to the board meeting, including president Penelope Wills; Connie Harris, a district board member representing the Verde Valley; Linda Buchanan, community education coordinator for the college’s Verde Valley campus; and James Perey, executive dean of the Verde Valley campus.
Rounding out the list of special guests was Jennifer Encinas Barron, a first-grader from Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School. She attended all five weeks of College for Kids — for two of those weeks, she wasn’t registered for any classes, but was insistent about getting signed up.
“She walked herself into my office and she demanded to know where her registration was,” Buchanan said with a laugh. “She told me she had sent her application in and she wanted her class schedule. I had a stack of paperwork about 2 feet high, but if you’ve ever been held up by a 6-year-old who needs to know where her registration is, you know you need to get busy.”
Encinas Barron was one of nearly 180 students who attended classes over the summer, up from 80 students in last summer’s program. Students from districts all over the Verde Valley were invited to participate, though COCSD’s relationship with Yavapai College meant many of the students came from Cottonwood schools, and many of the classes were staffed by COCSD teachers.
The district also gave each school a limited number of golden tickets to pass out, which provided scholarships for students who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend the summer classes. The effects were far-reaching: Not only did those elementary and middle school students get the opportunity to take classes, but some of their older siblings took interest, too, and have enrolled in fall college courses, Buchanan said.
King singled out Wacker and Buchanan for their roles in organizing the program for the past two years: Each received a certificate of recognition and a word of thanks from King.
“It was truly a group effort from top to bottom, and they pulled off an amazing, amazing thing for kids who would not have had this opportunity otherwise,” King said. “To get them off the couch and to college was the theme of this, and that’s exactly what we did.”