TILTON – Many of the fourth-graders at Southwest Elementary School already have a good idea of what they would like to do when they grow up.

But those same youngsters said they weren’t sure what to expect when their entire school visits the University of Illinois next month.

“I think there will be a lot of stairs,” said fourth-grader Alexis Pollard when describing her vision of a college campus.

The Jan. 11 outing to the College of Engineering is the brain child of Southwest Principal Lindsey Prunkard, who wants her students to have a unique experience while teaching them the importance of post-secondary education and acquiring the skills needed for a professional career or trade.

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education John Hart said he was on board when he heard Prunkard’s plans to send Southwest’s kindergartners through fourth-graders on a college campus visit.

“The earlier we start, the better,” he said of preparing children for future endeavors. “What an opportunity for the kids.

“They’re learning what it takes to be a police officer or to be whatever they want to be,” he said. “They’re seeing these careers within their reach.

“It’s a good investment for the school district and the community,” Hart added.

Fourth-graders Keiper Engel and Darrius Tyler both said they have been on the campus of Danville Area Community College. Keiper attended a play in the Bremer Theater, and Darrius watched a basketball game at the Mary Miller gym.

Keiper said she knows exactly what her future holds.

“I want to go to college and then go to California and be a firefighter,” she said.

Darrius’ mind is made up as well. “I’m pretty good in math. I want to be a scientist.”

In fact, Darrius is very interested in seeing what the University of Illinois has to offer a young scientist like himself.

“If there’s science classes, I’m going there,” he said.

Fourth-grader Allie Gaskill said she would like to become a veterinarian, and fellow classmate Alexis Pollard wants to be a police officer.

“I want to be a teacher because I want to boss kids around,” classmate Rihanna Murphy joked.

Fourth-grader Daceian Hile admitted he’s changed his mind as he’s gotten older.

“I was going to be cop, but now I’d like to be a surgeon,” he said.

When asked what he expected next month’s campus visit to be like, Daceian replied matter-of-factly, “We’re going to learn a lot because it’s like a college.”

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