David Cooper talks to local students about attending college
School of Education Dean David Cooper visited Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham, N.C. to talk about Elon and the value of a college education.
By Caitlin O’Donnell ‘13
Photo Credit: Barbara Tyroler
Somewhere in the depths of the Duke Forest, students in Caitlin Trapani’s second grade class let out a loud “Long Live Elon” cheer. It was a chant the class had perfected in the fall during a visit from Cooper, who came to the classroom bearing both Elon gifts and information about attending college.
“The whole incentive behind it is that we just want them to start thinking about college and how that should be their future goal as early as possible,” said Trapani ’07, who teaches at Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham.
Each classroom at Maureen Joy is named after the teacher’s alma mater and, in preparation for Cooper’s visit, Trapani introduced her students to the hallmarks of an Elon education, including convocation, study abroad and the symbolism of the oak tree.
When he arrived in his full academic regalia, they were prepared with a barrage of questions and were eager to share their knowledge.
“It was just awesome because they had never seen an outfit like that,” Trapani said. “He seemed important just from being dressed up.”
Armed with Elon swag – including a beach chair now used as an author’s chair and a football used at recess – Cooper answered questions about the Elon experience and his daily responsibilities as dean and watched as the students acted out scenes from convocation.
In response to Cooper’s visit, the students wrote thank you notes, complete with illustrations of Acorns and Phoenix, as well as a narrative of the day.
“You were so kind. I love the gifts you brought us,” one student’s thank you reads. “They make me feel so speacial.”
Another student expressed love for Elon.
“I am going ther when I grow up and I will become a better lerner,” the note reads. “I love Elon Universite.”
Cooper’s visit to Maureen Joy was not his first classroom trip intended to introduce students to the idea of attending college. In 2010, he visited the second grade classroom of Kim Mellor G’04 at McDougle Elementary in Carrboro.
“Now I’ve got two classes and I’d be eager to do more of them,” he said. “They’re very reinforcing for me to do.”
While students from families with a history of college attendance often take the opportunity for granted, other students aren’t as lucky or well-prepared for what Cooper calls the “intensely complicated process” of getting into college.
“Children who come from families with no history of college attendance often need to have the prospect of college introduced to them in a very explicit and careful way and the earlier you start with this, the better,” he said. “When a kid learns about college for the first time in high school or even middle school, it’s almost too late to really get on the right track.”
According to Trapani, the students still talk about Elon and Cooper’s visit and have expressed interest in attending the university one day. And they take every opportunity they can to talk about it.
It was during a reading unit called “Let’s Explore” that the class took a hike through Duke Forest and passed a woman wearing an Elon sweatshirt. After sharing her affiliation with the university – both her son and daughter attend – the students shared their cheer and spoke about Cooper’s visit.
“Even if they go to a different college, I think that they’ll definitely remember the conversations about study abroad and traditions,” Trapani said. “They all said how cool it would be to study abroad and learn a new language and be in a different culture. They connected his visit to so many other components of college life.
“It had a lasting impression.”