Blacksburg elementary students head to college after day in school

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BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) -- A group of Blacksburg students leave Margaret Beeks Elementary school and take the bus to Virginia Tech every Monday during the school year.

"We want to bring them to college so that they can see what opportunities are on the campus and so they can figure out what their passions are at a younger age," said Virginia Tech senior Cody Lopez.

Lopez helped start the national College Mentors for Kids program at Virginia Tech.

It started as a pilot program with a few dozen kids at Margaret Beeks last year and and quickly grew nearly 300 percent, Lopez said. The program includes students at Kipps and Price's Fork Elementary schools as well.

"We don't want to teach kids what to think," Lopez said. "We want to teach them how to think for themselves."

Each Virginia Tech mentor is paired with one first through fifth grader, their "little buddies," for two hours, one day a week, every week.

"We have a lot of fun," said little buddie, Jacob. "And we get to do certain things that we can't do it home."

The students and mentors spend their time doing hand on activities. Monday, the focus was on building construction. Another week the students extracted DNA from strawberries. Each week's activities are designed to introduce kids to what's out there, early.

"That way they have that experience when they're growing up instead of having to wait until they're applying to colleges," Lopez said.

Mentors gain from the program as well. They learn to be leaders, role models and to give back. They're some of the same qualities the mentors try to pass on to their little buddies.

"I get to see what I can do in the future with other kids," said Jacob.

The College Mentors for Kids program is free for students. Mentors raise some money through fundraisers. The bulk of funding comes from donations.