McKinley Elementary School students on Friday staked their loyalties in one of college football's classic matchups.
The campus was awash in the cardinal and gold of USC, and the blue and gold of UCLA for Rivalry Day, an annual college-focused celebration that coincides with the annual matchup.
"The main point is to inspire them to think about what they want to do in their future," said Suzanne Weerts, a McKinley mother and the founder of Rivalry Day. "And some people go to a college because of college sports."
Students were encouraged to wear USC and UCLA colors, and they responded by donning T-shirts, jerseys and headbands to make their loyalties known. At recess, the respective fans competed against one another in a football relay race, chanting taunts at one another in classic rivalry fashion.
Seven-year-old Leoda Khozravi lined up with the UCLA camp without a moment of hesitation.
"My mom and dad both went to the same school — UCLA," Leoda said.
Rivalry Day is the culmination of College Month, which McKinley Elementary marks each November with a series of college-oriented programs. The school's main hall is decorated with pennants from dozens of institutions, and students learn about colleges they may not have been familiar with.
McKinley sponsors a scholarship as part of its College Month, Weerts said. McKinley families and community members contribute, and Burroughs High School seniors who graduated from McKinley are invited to apply. This year, the scholarship will be more than $2,000.
"It puts that seed in their mind," said McKinley mother and Rivalry Day volunteer Chris Zemanek.
On Tuesday, several dozen McKinley fifth-graders took a tour of the UCLA campus.
"The campus was wonderful; the architecture was beautiful," said Nicole Benedicto, 11. "And I saw all of the students busy at work."
They also got a look at the main fountain, which was bubbling a deep shade of red water, the result of a pre-game prank. Marco Paz, 10, described himself as a USC man, but his visit to UCLA might have shifted his loyalties somewhat.
"[USC is] a better football team than UCLA, no offense," Marco said. "But UCLA does seem like a good college. I think for college I might go to UCLA."