Fifth grade is one of the early jumping off points in life, where kids trampoline from elementary to middle school. But at Findley Elementary’s Dreamer Academy, 5th graders have long since learned to think multiple moves ahead.

Every grade level at Findley makes a college visit at some point during the year. Thursday was 5th grade’s turn and they spent most of the day on the campus of Grand View University, getting a taste of an option they don’t want to wait until high school to consider.

Findley also holds family events called Beginners Guides to Paying for College. The most recent one was earlier this month. When current Findley Dreamers start college, many of them will be the first member of their families to do so. That’s why it’s important to educate parents on the ways and means of making it possible ASAP in their children’s lives.

“We’ve had three of those events now,” said Heather Isaacson, Dreamer Academy Program Director for the I Have A Dream Foundation, co-sponsor of them, along with Iowa Student Loan. “The first drew 33 families. Last year it was 75, and last week there were 90.”

Parents of Findley students who attend earn $30 for their child’s 529 college savings plans, also courtesy of the foundation.

Billy Kirby is the Elementary Program Manager for the Dreamer Academy at Findley. He coordinates the campus visits.

“On Friday, the 3rd graders are off to Central College in Pella,” he said on Thursday at Grand View. “Next semester, the 1st graders will tour Drake, 2nd grade goes to DMACC and 4th grade trips to Iowa City for the University of Iowa. Our kindergarteners visited Central Campus in the fall.”

So by the time students complete grades K-5 at Findley, they (and their families) have been exposed to all that Central Campus has to offer and made at least five college visits – before entering middle school.

The Findley emphasis on post-secondary education isn’t limited to college planning.

“We are actively seeking skilled trades partners to create something similar to the campus visit program,” said Isaacson. “The idea isn’t necessarily college, it’s just that high school isn’t the finish line.”

But collegiate life did appeal to the prospective Vikings making the rounds on Thursday at Grand View.

The toured the dorms, the student center, saw a play in the campus theater, exercised in the wellness center, mingled with GVU students at lunch and collaborated with them on a service project to benefit Central Iowa Shelter and Services.

When it was time for the busses to load and head back to their current school (where, incidentally, every student writes a thank you note to the college that hosted them), at least one lad had seen enough to make his college choice right then and there.

“I’m gonna hide in the bathroom so I get locked in,” he said, loudly enough that his ambitious plot was foiled. He’ll have to come back later, or make his way to another college or university in due course.

“How ya’ gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paris?” goes an old song lyric.

Exactly – right, Findley Dreamers?

Findley Students Visiting Grandview University

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