South Central L.A. Third Graders to Get Taste of College Life During CSUN Visit


An illustration by one of Gomez' students in anticipation of the visit to CSUN.

An illustration by one of Gomez’ students in anticipation of the visit to CSUN.

Teacher Kaylie Gomez has big plans next week when she brings her third grade class from Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists in South Central Los Angeles to visit California State University, Northridge.

The students will tour the campus on April 17, meet with university dignitaries including CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison, Provost Harry Hellenbrand and Michael Spagna, dean of the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, and sit in on lectures by biology professor MariaElena Zavala, sociology professor Herman DeBose and elementary education professor Nancy O’Rode.

More importantly, Gomez said, she hopes the visit to her alma mater will help her students realize that college truly is a possibility and something they can plan for.

“Many of them come from families where higher education is not a tradition,” she said. “It’s not that their parents don’t want them to go to college, but some of them don’t know what paths their kids should take to get them there.

“I talk to my kids all the time about college, and in particular CSUN and what a wonderful experience I had there,” Gomez said. “I want them to know that they can go to college like I did. I want them to understand that in addition to being a place to get an education, college can also be a warm, inviting community that can set you onto a path for success. It’s important that they realize that learning doesn’t stop after high school.”

Elementary education professor Joan Baca taught Gomez, who earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and her multiple subject teaching credential from CSUN in 2011..

“This is a very special project,” Baca said of the third graders’ field trip to CSUN. “Kaylie Gomez has been inspiring these children with the dream that college can be a reality for them. Her dream, as a way to fulfill theirs, was this trip to reinforce that CSUN and college can be a dream come true for their future.”

Baca pointed out that Wisdom academy is a charter school with only eight classrooms and is housed in a former church complex.

“These kids come from a very challenging environment, yet Kaylie is showing them that college can be a very real option,” she said.

An illustration by one of Gomez' students in anticipation of the visit to CSUN.

An illustration by one of Gomez’ students in anticipation of the visit to CSUN.

The students’ day will start off at 9:30 a.m. with greetings from university administrators including Hellenbrand and Spagna. They will then attend a half-hour lecture by Zavala, followed by a half hour lecture by DeBose. They will visit the university’s Bianchi Planetarium, have lunch and then tour the campus, including visits to student housing, the Oviatt Library, the Student Recreation Center and the bookstore. The third graders will end their day with a meeting with Harrison.

“You know, we toss the word ‘community’ around a lot, but I’m not sure that my students actually understand what it means,” Gomez said. “I tell my students that when you walk about CSUN’s beautiful campus, see all the people—many of whom look just like them—and watch them interact, laugh, share and talk, you begin to see what community and life-long learning truly means. It doesn’t matter if they go to CSUN or some other university; what’s important to me is that my students have the opportunity to experience and form a real foundation for higher education communities that they may want to be a part of when they’re older.”

California State University, Northridge has more than 34,000 full- and part-time students and offers 66 bachelor’s and 53 master’s degrees as well as 28 teaching credential programs. Founded in 1958, CSUN is among the largest single-campus universities in the nation and the only four-year public university in the San Fernando Valley. The university is home to dozens of nationally recognized programs where students gain valuable hands-on experience working alongside faculty and industry professionals, whether in the sciences, health care and engineering or education, political science, the arts and the social sciences. While regionally focused, the university’s faculty and administrators recognize the important role its students and alumni play in shaping the future of the state and the nation.