December 05, 2008
-- Erin Calandriello, Staff Writer, Elgin Courier News, Sun Times News Group; Reprinted by permission
STREAMWOOD -- "Hail, Knox all glorious! Unto thee we sing" filtered through Kimberly Scanlon's second-grade classroom at Hanover Countryside Elementary School Thursday.
Even though Knox College in Galesburg is not yet their alma mater, these second-graders are daring to dream the college life.
The song was the students' way of welcoming Knox's president, Roger Taylor, who visited the class to deliver a hard-to-find Knox T-shirt and work with the students on their own personal college seal.
"Knox College changed my life," Taylor told students. "I grew up on a farm in western Illinois and I was the first to get a college degree. My dad died, but my mom, grandma and grandpa encouraged me to think about going to college.
"Since I graduated from Knox College, I've had a privileged life. I was privileged to serve 3-1/2 years in the Navy. I was privileged to go to law school at Northwestern University Law School. I was privileged to be a lawyer for 30 years in Chicago with the best firm, Kirkland & Ellis. But what I love best about Knox is that on my first day, I met my wife of 44 years."
Students may not comprehend what the real benefits of college are, but they're trying.
Knox and its president have adopted Scanlon's classroom after Hanover Countryside was selected as a "No Excuses University" school. That means that students at Hanover Countryside constantly encounter reminders that each of them is expected to work hard, behave responsibly, and achieve impressively -- no excuses to not go on to college.
Over the past year, the students have corresponded with Taylor, sending him letters and pictures. Their Halloween pictures hang in his office. He, in turn, has sent them pictures of Knox, its people, and background on the college's historic connection to Abraham Lincoln. One of the Lincoln-Douglas debates took place on Knox's campus.
Taylor discussed this famous debate with students, pointing out that the only way for Lincoln to get onto the podium was to squeeze through a window, where he cried out, "At last, I have finally gone through college."
While acknowledging that Lincoln was self-educated, Taylor pointed out that even in 1858, Lincoln "was thinking about the importance of college."
Second-grade students such as Caroline Przywara, 8, are thinking about it, too. She's aiming to go to college because "I want to learn lots of other stuff, like math and science."
Most students agreed with their classmate when they raised their hands after Taylor asked them if they're going to college. To those who didn't, he said, "Oh, that's OK. Not everyone has to go to college."
But teacher Scanlon disagreed, saying, "Oh yes they do. They're all smart. They have to go."
Maybe they will. But one thing's for sure -- those Knox T-shirts were a hit with students, convincing some that they're going to Knox.
"That's so cool to get a T-shirt. That guy (Taylor) is awesome," said Ivan Flores, 7. "I'm so going to Knox."
Photo: Roger Taylor, president of Knox College in Galesburg, shouts his school's song with second-graders Thursday at Hanover Countryside Elementary School in Streamwood.
(Photo by Michael Smart/Elgin Courier News Staff Photographer; Reprinted by permission)