SOMERS, Wis. – The impacts from the pandemic have been hard on everyone, particularly for the youth of our country. Not only have they had to change the way they interact with each other, family, and friends, but also in the way they learn.

Students at Webster Elementary in Mesa, Arizona were dealing with the same issues as many children have their age, including abruptly changing from in-person to virtual learning back in March 2020. When students were allowed to go back into the class, UW-Parkside was highlighted for Webster’s University of the Week Unit.

UW-Parkside talked with Julie Kunitada, first grade teacher at Webster Elementary in charge of running the unit, which for the first time included UW-Parkside. We’re thankful for the work that Julie has done to help show her students the possibilities of post-secondary education and allowing them to dream about what their bright futures may hold.

1. How long has the school done this initiative and how long UWP has been involved?

This unit is done mainly by myself and teachers who want to participate with me. Right now, three kinder classes, a second-grade class and a third-grade class are participating. I have been doing this unit for about 11 years and this is the first year to have UW-Parkside highlighted. I hope we can continue in the future. I have some schools that have been with me since the beginning. Several have sent reps to our class or the presidents have come personally to talk to the kids when they are in town.

2. What are the major takeaways or what do you hope the children learn?

I started this program 11 years ago while I was teaching kinder. The principal started a University Pennant wall. In class, I asked my students what they wanted to be when they grew up. I expected, fire fighter, police officer, flight attendant or teacher, but the response stunned me.

Soon I realized that my kinder students had no ideas of the possibilities out there. That is when I started the University of the Week program. I wanted to introduce different opportunities to my students. Now I teach first grade and my students can tell you what a major is. They can tell you why people go to college and I make sure to highlight the majors that certain universities are known for. I hope that the students know the possibilities out there and learn they can achieve any job they want if they study hard and try their best.

On another side, students are also taught to be appreciative for what they have received from the college. We write informative thank you letters (which help connect to our standards) as I feel they should be grateful for the items we receive.

3. How do you hope to grow this program in the coming years?

I hope to have other teachers hop on board. I would also like to have more interaction with the schools. It would be great if we could highlight the university and have someone from the university have a video meet with us. Right now, in kinder, they only learn about highlighted majors and do a coloring page. First grade, we find out about the school and majors and in 2nd and 3rd grade they also learn about the university’s state.


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