Making college a reality for all children is the goal of Operation College Bound, an initiative supported by the Bright Futures Joplin program.
The program, designed to introduce children to the possibility of attending college, was launched in 2002 as a pilot program at Joplin’s Columbia Elementary School. The program has been such a success, all elementary schools in the Joplin School District are now participating.
Through the program, students in kindergarten through fifth grade learn about the opportunities a college education can provide, the programs offered at various universities, and the process to apply for college. The year culminates with visits to the college campuses. Students tour the campus, classrooms, dorms and athletic facilities, and have an opportunity to meet with students and staff.
Bright Futures Joplin provided the initial grant to start the program and continues to provide financial support through partnerships with local businesses.
“We are excited to be a part of this program,” said Bright Futures Joplin Coordinator Melissa Winston. “Each year we coordinate a kickoff celebration for all the schools, and then work with a local business to provide fundraising opportunities for the schools to raise support for their individual programs.
“Operation College Bound is a fantastic program that helps get the feet of every kiddo in Joplin onto six college campuses before they hit middle school,” Melissa said. “The goal is to expose kids to post-secondary institutions in our area and help them see that college is well within their reach. We want to ‘normalize’ post-secondary education as an expectation after high school and connect them to experiences and relationships that help them get there.”
“It is an incredible experience to hear thousands of elementary students cheering ‘We are college bound!’ and it's even more fun to see them begin dreaming of all of the possibilities for their future,” Melissa added. “Our goal is not to just have a great program we all feel good about, but to change the landscape of our community for generations to come. I would encourage your Bright Futures community to take a look at this framework and see if it might be applicable in your area. I think you'll find that there are many pieces and parts that can easily translate and make a big impact!”
We at Bright Futures USA salute Joplin Schools and the Joplin community for their support of this program and recognition of how this program can impact the youngest members of the community. Giving all elementary students a chance to get excited about college is an awesome thing. Bright Futures Joplin is an important part of the Bright Futures family. Thank you Joplin for always being willing to share things that can help all children. Every child needs a champion and it is obvious that the community of Joplin is working to ensure that all children in Joplin have one!