Road to Success

Program brings students to Drake and helps make college seem possible

“It was the most awesome day I had this year.”

This proclamation, from a Des Moines fifth grader, was not in response to a field trip to the zoo or a baseball game. This student had just spent a day at Drake University talking with staff and faculty, participating in intramural sports and having a picnic lunch with members of the Drake soccer team in the middle of the field at Drake Stadium.

The opportunity was made available through Road to Success, an outreach program that brings young students to the Drake campus for a day and helps them envision a college education. Jaynette Rittman, GR’94, a Drake alumna and the principal at Garton Elementary School in Des Moines created the program and worked with the Drake Office of Admission to establish the program three years ago. The admission staff have, in turn, partnered with the athletics and wellness offices to ensure the day is action packed and memorable. More than 60 students participated in the program earlier this year.

But beyond encouraging the students to have a good time on campus, the program has two goals: One, to reward the students for achieving academic goals established earlier in the year, and two, help these young people realize that a college education is a real possibility for them and that Drake is interested in their future.

“The opportunity to welcome young students to the campus through group visits is an extension of Drake’s commitment to be a resource and a partner in serving the Des Moines community,” says Deneen Dygert, associate director of admissions. “Engaging our students, staff and faculty in welcoming and meaningful ways to introduce the option of higher education and Drake in particular to young students, makes Drake accessible and can ultimately play a significant role in recruitment.”

In small groups, students took a campus tour, had their pictures taken at campus locations with a member of the Drake men’s soccer team, participated in a relaxing yoga session with Wellness Center staff, played a game of bat ball and listened to a rousing motivational speech by Head Men’s Soccer Coach Sean Holmes while on the field in the middle of Drake Stadium.

“Jaynette’s commitment to reward 5th graders for their academic accomplishments with a day at Drake is commendable and one that we support fully,” says Dygert. “Drake staff in wellness, athletics and admissions worked together to make sure the day was one that would inspire and reward the students. Who knows? Maybe one of these students will enter as a new student in 2018.”

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