February 12, 2009

UA volunteers read to K-12 students

For Immediate Release
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009

University of Alaska alumni and student volunteers will read a colorful picture book to children across the state later this month as part of the UA College Savings Plan's ongoing "I Know I Can" outreach program.

"I Know I Can" features animal characters encouraging children to consider college and career choices, and to start thinking about those choices early. The university and the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education sponsored the program for the first time three years ago. It has now expanded to 37 classrooms in a dozen schools.

Volunteers from the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast will read the book aloud in schools the last week of the month. Five communities are participating this year, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Bethel and, new this year, Galena. The volunteers will give away free copies of the book to an estimated 730 children.

The book shows a group of animal characters thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. A little mouse character donning a cap and gown hides on each page, thinking "I know I can" to himself as the story unfolds. A teacher, Mrs. Walker, explains to the children that they should start thinking about their futures now, and she gives them lots of ideas, such as being a house builder, farmer, or doctor or nurse.

"You can become whatever you want if you try," Mrs. Walker says. She even gains the acceptance of one reluctant character who thinks he already knows everything, O'Toot the owl.

Linda Luper, director of the UA College Savings Plan, said the purpose of the book is to help youngsters think about what's ahead of them in life.

"Young children love to think about what they're going to be when they grow up, but we have to make sure they know it requires effort on their part," Luper said. "We know not every job requires a four-year college degree, but most jobs require some level of postsecondary training and workforce education beyond high school. Children should be encouraged at an early age to think about all of the possibilities for their life, including college."

The volunteers ask the students to draw a postcard showing what they want to be when they grow up.ยป When the participating children complete elementary school, the postcard will be mailed back to them to remind them of their goals. Participating schools this year include:

Anchorage: Muldoon, Willow Crest and Mountain View elementary schools
Fairbanks: Barnette, Denali and North Pole elementary schools
Juneau: Glacier Valley, Gastineau and Mendenhall River elementary schools
Bethel: Ayaprun Elitnaurvik and Mikelnguut Elitnaurvik
Galena: Galena Primary School

The UA College Savings Plan fully funds the project, with operational support from the ACPE. I Know I Can is a non-profit, national organization based in Ohio.

The UA College Savings Plan offers tax-advantaged savings plans to residents in Alaska and throughout the United States. Students who use the plan to pay for college can attend any qualified school, not just UA. The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is the state's higher education agency that promotes, supports and provides access to higher education through a package of financial aid and early education awareness services.

For more information, call Linda Luper, UA College Savings Plan program director, at (907) 450-8115, or Lora Jorgensen, ACPE, at (907) 269-7591.

Check out http://www.alaska.edu/studentservices/outreach/i_know_i_can/index.xml
for more information, including pictures of postcards drawn by the children.