Instilling the Idea of Career and College at an Early Age

by Eve Markman
Director of Creative Services
College of Philadelphia, PA

How do you get children to think about college – and create awareness about your college – at a very young age? How do you help them aspire to get a degree and a fulfilling career?

These days, everyone is talking about reaching out to potential students earlier and earlier. But kindergarten through second grade? Research shows that underprivileged children’s ideas of what they can be narrows at a very young age. How can we communicate the possibilities available to them?

Inspired by a similar project at Delaware Technical Community College and learning that the college had just “adopted” a nearby elementary school, I decided to pitch the idea of creating a children’s book to my department. One of my graphic designers and I produced the illustrations. Team members wrote the story collaboratively. We published “Oh Dear, What’s a Career?” a book that introduces children to the concept of careers and how education lights the path forward, in November 2018.

Playing with the college’s tagline, “The Path to Possibilities,” we named the animal characters “Poss” and “Ible.” They encounter a range of people with different careers on their way to school, including a chef, a nurse and an artist. The pair teaches the important lesson that with education, anything is possible. The goal is to help young students understand how a college education will help them attain meaningful professions. In the inside back cover, we give the soft sell, “What do you want to be when you grow up? Whatever it is, your friends at Community College of Philadelphia wish you a world of possibilities,” and we list our web address. Subtle, but the message is there.

Once published, we reached out to our adopted school, the Spring Garden School. The president of the college, Dr. Donald Generals, and our foundation board president, Dr. Ellyn Jo Waller, read to classes at the school, and my colleagues and I provided coloring sheets with the characters to the children. We discussed the book with students, and talked about what they would like to be when they grew up. Our local ABC station ran a short story on the launch. What we did not anticipate was the overwhelming reception the book has received, from students, children of colleagues, the college community and friends of the institution.

Author and former distinguished Community College of Philadelphia professor Ned Bachus recently interviewed me about the book as part of his series of articles, Turning Points, which can be found at nedbachus.com. The book has been given to legislative leaders and was featured at the 27th annual African American Children’s Book Fair, which is held by an external group at the college. A member of our department was at the event to answer questions and talk to children about the possibilities available with an education. With requests for copies of the book, as well as dozens of other organizations, fairs, libraries, schools and community businesses that we could potentially distribute to, we’re thrilled with the response.

This somewhat unlikely project has elevated our work as a team, highlighted our creativity, garnered support from colleagues, and helped us establish and further relationships with the community. Part of the college’s mission is improving the city in which we serve. We hope this adds to our continuing efforts to improve the lives of our citizens while reaching out to potential students well before they are thinking about college.

Eve Markman is the NCMPR District 1 director and the director of creative services at Community College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

Blog contributor Nicole Sarpolis is the marketing coordinator at Community College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

Blog contributor Jessica Scicchitano is the marketing/editorial assistant at Community College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

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