Campus & community, Campus news

Bears "adopt" Brooklyn 4th graders to promote college success

By Public Affairs

(Video by Roxanne Makasdjian)

UC Berkeley has partnered with Bensonhurst Elementary School, also known as P.S. (Public School) 247, in Brooklyn, New York, to help its students learn more about college and life at Cal. There are now 22 universities in the school’s College Partnership Program, and each university has adopted a particular classroom at the pre-kindergarten through 5th grade school.

After a UC Berkeley alumna contacted the Office of Public Affairs about the Bensonhurt program, UC Berkeley ‘s campus ambassadors — student tour guides for prospective students and distinguished guests — “adopted”  a classroom of 4th graders at P.S. 247, said LaDawn Duvall, Public Affairs’ executive director of Visitor and Parent Services. To outfit the classroom of teacher Jessica Puma McKenna, they sent the school a box of Cal gear and decorations.

“It is our school’s priority to provide an atmosphere year-round that helps children and their families understand the opportunities that are available to them in our society,”  said Christopher Ogno, P.S. 247’s principal. The ethnically diverse school, which ranked in the top 10 of all New York City elementary schools in 2011, has 767 students — 75 percent of them from families whose incomes are below the poverty line. It has 30 classrooms, each matched with a partnering college or university, and a parent college resource center. Every K-5 student also gets the chance to take a field trip to a local college.

Since travel is not an option for the Bensonhurst youngsters, or for their new California friends, a group of Cal ambassadors recently met via Skype with some of the 4th graders in their adopted classroom, and there are plans for more chats. Duvall said she hopes ambassadors who live in the New York area will be able to visit the school on a trip home.

“We are happy to partner with P.S. 247 to introduce UC Berkeley to future Cal Bears,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to partner with one of New York City’s top performing schools and support children who are in a learning environment that actively promotes higher education.”