Griz adopt a kindergarten class to promote college dream


Oct. 8, 2012

The Montana Grizzlies have expanded their reach and "adopted" a kindergarten class in Shepherd, Mont., as a way to show the youngsters that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to.

The adoption is part of a national program called No Excuses University. No Excuses University is a network of elementary, middle and junior high schools across the country that actively promote college readiness to all students the moment they begin elementary school. The program is designed to teach every student that they have the right to be prepared to attend college. In addition to college readiness, goal setting is taught to students at a young age.

In order to participate in the program, schools must apply to the program and then be accepted. Once accepted, teachers and school staff attend a national conference to be trained in the program's "exceptional systems" that outline a step-by-step process to encourage universal achievement throughout the school. Teachers return to their classes equipped with tools to assist students with devising ways to accomplish their dreams.

Shepherd Elementary School is the first school in Montana to join the program. The school will use partnerships with different universities to instill the belief in its students that they can all be successful. School staff will then ensure that mentality is also upheld throughout the rest of the Shepherd community so the kids have as much support as they need. Autumn Kring's classroom will partner with the Griz to learn more about college and how to achieve dreams.

"It's about meeting the needs of every student," says Kring. "We are very diverse here in Shepherd, and we want to teach the kids that college is always a possibility no matter where they start."

For Kring, picking The University of Montana to represent the college dream to her class was an easy one.

"Some other classes are already partnered with other Montana universities," says Kring. "Colleges in Montana have been great with helping us out. The kids are familiar with UM, especially football, and it's easy for them to get excited about the Griz."

Incorporating college symbolism into the classroom is an important part of the program. At Shepherd Elementary, students are encouraged to wear their college gear every Monday. Kring's class has also made up a Griz-themed cheer to the tune of "I'm a Little Tea Pot," which the kids proudly chant at every school assembly. The class learns college-oriented vocabulary and keeps a bulletin board dedicated to UM.

So far, the kids have been most excited about their new UM swag. Grizzly Athletics sent the classroom a package packed with Griz gear including maroon backpacks for every student.

"The kids were so excited to get the package," says Kring. "They immediately all put on their new backpacks. The package that UM sent showed them that someone else is really interested in their success, and that was really exciting for them."

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