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Elementary students get pumped up for college life
Wakefield Elementary students practice the alma mater chant for their classroom college of Arizona State University. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal
Between learning their alphabet and multiplication tables, students at Wakefield Elementary School are memorizing their college Alma Mater.
Wakefield students head into kindergarten with the knowledge that after high school it’s the college life for them, all due to the No Excuses University program.
This program, adopted by Wakefield about three years ago, just recently added Wakefield into their network allowing more opportunities for local students to take on the full experience of what college has to offer.
“This is making a commitment that all students will be prepared for college,” said Aaron Mello, Wakefield principal. “They have the mindset that after high school they will go to college.”
College banners and flags cover the halls of the elementary school, not to mention each individual classroom is decked out in their specific college they adopted for their class.
In Mrs. Montejano’s first grade class, all of her students support their college by memorizing the alma mater of the University of California, San Francisco. Her class already knows the importance of college and they are only six to seven years old.
“We need to go to college because we need to learn everything we need to learn and be responsibility and respect,” said first grader Janet Lopez.
When Mrs. Montejano asks her students why they want to go to college, all of them tell her in unison “to be whatever we want to be.”
“I have to go to college so I can be what I want to be when I grow up,” said first grader Jackie Valenzuela. “I want to be a firewoman.”
Along with alma mater chants, the students are quizzed on what year they will graduate from college and college terminology like semester and tuition.
On Wednesdays they get a chance to show off the year they will graduate with their personalized classroom college T-shirt stamped with the year they will complete college. Sixth graders are looking at a graduation year of about 2020.
Mondays are also a day to support the No Excuses program with students flooding the halls with their No Excuses Wakefield T-shirts.
Currently about 80 percent of the Wakefield students are Hispanic with 70 percent English Language Learners and all students are on the free and reduced lunch program, Mello said.
This program is special to this school because most of the students will be the first generation of college graduates in their family, he said.
“I have a deep passion for the No Excuses program because of the clientele we serve,” said sixth grade teacher Chris Alonzo. “The students here deserve all the same chances. We don’t want to allow them to make excuses for things going on in their life.”  
Wakefield is easing their students into this program with visualization of the college atmosphere and helping the students believe in themselves to minimize the excuses.
“Our students have things they have to overcome,” Mello said. “We are trying to neutralize the obstacles that are coming in from home. It starts with putting that belief in them.”
Along with visualization, Wakefield staff is working extremely hard to give students the tools they need to succeed and do well academically, he said.
The students have the right attitude about college, now they just need to have results to back it up in assessments, Mello said.
“If we have kids believing in themselves, they are going to go out there and be successful,” Mello said.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.