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College for Kids turns 30 in style

Melissa Lindsay
Like mother, like daughter – Mallory Jones (left) attended College For Kids this year, just like her mother, Nici (Winbigler) Jones did some 25 years earlier.
Monmouth College’s summer enrichment program for children, College for Kids, celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Started in 1980 by then-education professor Esther White, the two-week program has been growing in popularity and size ever since.

“This is an important program for this area for children who are motivated to learn and meet new friends,” said retired MC professor Dorothy Douglas, who was involved in the early years of College for Kids and has many fond memories. “It was neat because you could really tell that they wanted to be there and that they liked it.”

Sponsored by MC’s department of educational studies, College for Kids offers students from second through eighth grade the opportunity to take classes on a college campus. The teachers are professors from the college, recent MC graduates, teachers from local school districts and retired teachers from the area.

“The wonderful thing about this program is that it is campus wide,” said current CFK coordinator Kathy Mainz. “There is cooperation among the education department, admissions, the business office and maintenance. It is fantastic because everyone helps.”

This year, 375 children were enrolled in the program – an all-time record. The students represented six counties and 11 school districts.

“There are also a handful of students from out of town who have grandparents in the area,” Mainz said. “Students travel from as far as Ohio for College for Kids. We are also seeing second generations this year. Parents who went through the program are now sending their children.”

One such example is Nici Jones and her daughter, Mallory. Nici enjoyed her experience in the mid-1980s and is pleased that CFK remains an option some 25 years later.

“She never wants school to be over,” said Jones of her daughter. “The summer does get long and boring, and this is a good program to keep the kids active.”

“The program really grew in the 1980s and ’90s and kids came back every year,” said Douglas, who noted that popular classes included “Kitchen Chemistry” and “Backyard History.” The latter class was taught by Monmouth-Roseville Junior High School teacher Tom Best, and Jones remembers it well.

“I remember taking French, and I also remember a class where we went to the graveyard,” said Jones. “We made up stories about the lives of some of the people in the older graves, and we also did grave rubbings. Actually, I’d love to see my entire class schedule from those years.”

Jones’s maiden name is Winbigler, a family with strong ties to Monmouth College. She said that history made attending CFK even more special for her, and she’s pleased that both her daughter and a nephew, Cody Winbigler, are attending.

Mallory, who will be a fourth-grader in the fall, said she especially enjoyed her sculpture class, where “We’re making bulls out of leaves.” She also took “Endangered Animals” and “Little House on the Prairie.” In the latter class, the students learned what it was like to live as a pioneer in the 1800s and also read some of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s works.

“It was fun – it made you feel like you were in college,” said Jones of her CFK experience. “It makes kids realize what it would be like, and it gives them a goal to achieve.”

Ultimately, Jones fulfilled her goal of graduating from college, attending Illinois State University and Carl Sandburg College before earning her bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University.

This year’s CFK catalog offers 58 different courses, making it the largest catalog to date.

“The most popular classes this year are ‘Kitchen Chemistry’ and ‘Webmaster,’” said Mainz. “Other popular classes are ‘Gallery Glass,’ taught by (MC math professor) Marjorie Bond and the various foreign languages. We are offering an American Sign Language course this year, which is completely full.”

College for Kids celebrated its 30th anniversary with a new logo and a birthday party on the last day of the program, June 25.