College atmosphere inspires local elementary school students

LOS ANGELES — The pre-game excitement before a college football game — where throngs of people are dressed in school colors, barbecuing and having a good time — is enough to get anyone energized.

But for about two-dozen Costa Mesa sixth-grade students, just being on a university campus, let alone the pre-football game revelry, was an eye opener.

"Everywhere I've been has been awesome," said Andrea Rubalcava on Saturday at the University of Southern California campus, just before the Trojans faced Colorado at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. "I wish I could come here when I'm older."

Andrea's wish to go to a university is exactly why Pomona Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Jeff Williams gave up his Saturday to take his students and those from his former school, Rea Elementary, to USC.

Williams started taking students to his alma mater more than a decade ago to show them what college actually looks like and spark their interest in attending.

"The kids that we serve, most of them really don't have a concept of what [college] is," Williams said. "When we walk them around, their eyes are just amazed. Most of our kids don't get out of that community."

Williams — along with fellow alumni, including his parents — took the students on tours around the campus to see the many athletic trophies in Heritage Hall, inside a classroom and through one of the many campus libraries.

"It's like a USC city," said Eduardo Orozco after only a small taste of what the campus offers.

Williams explained to his group about dorms, cafeterias, the campus bookstore, the student health center and how the campus offers students different schools — such as dentistry, music and cinema — depending on what they want to study.

"When you decide to go to college, you have to decide what you want to study," Williams explained. "What you want to study can guide where you go to school."

The students also got an explanation of what the "V" sign people made with their fingers meant.

"This means V for victory," he said. "Then everyone says 'Fight On!' This means we will never give up."

The sixth-graders got to use the Trojan symbol when the marching band played the school fight song before they experienced the quintessential college experience: a football game.

The group had tickets to Saturday's game thanks to the Trojan Kids Club, which donates home game tickets to various athletic events to schools.

It is through the Trojan Kids Club that Williams has been able to take students to games since 1998.

For Britney Robles and Kyra Avila, it was their first time on a college campus and they were amazed by everything, from the sheer size of the university to the marching band to the number of statues and trophies.

The experience gave Kyra a better idea of what college is about, and she summed up her feelings in two words.

"Pretty awesome."

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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