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Midvalley Elementary kindergartners embark on journey to 'college ready'

MIDVALE — Dressed in a police officer's cap, Daniel Fiuza has his eye on a career in law enforcement when he grows up.

And why?

"I like blue and police officers wear blue," he said.

Daniel, the police officer wannabe and a member of the Class of 2030, took part in Kindergarten College-Ready Day Thursday at Midvalley Elementary School.

For nine years running, kindergarten classes in Canyons School District end their first week of school by taking time out to talk about the journey through high school, college and beyond.

In that spirit, students were asked to dress in costumes related to what they want to be when they grow up, which included doctors, a chef, a construction worker, veterinarians, a fairy, butterfly and a wide array of super heroes.

"Someone wanted to be a friend, so that was my favorite one," said kindergarten teacher Ashley Bell.

Bell and her teaching colleague Vicki Houmand wore T-shirts representing their college alma maters, University of Utah and Brigham Young University, respectively.

Houmand's father was a teacher, she told the students. He told her she could be a teacher, too, but she had to work hard in school and go to college.

"I went to BYU and that's how I became a teacher," Houmand explained.

As for teaching students who will graduate in 2030, Bell said telescoping out 13 years "seems insane. It seems so far from now, but it's really not that far for them."

While talking about college may be "a bit abstract" for 5-year-olds, kindergarten is the perfect opportunity to emphasize the importance of excelling in school, "and then you'll be able to do the things you want to do in the future," Bell said.

It starts by doing well in kindergarten, which sets up students for success in first grade and so on, she said.

"It's just really focusing on what they're doing right now. If they succeed now, they'll keep succeeding. It's building them up and giving them those successes so they're confident in themselves," she said.

In their first week of school, kindergartners learn "how to be in school: how to walk in the hallway; how to sit on the carpet; how to sit on our chair," Bell said.

Next week, the classes will start in on the curriculum, which includes learning the alphabet and each letter's sound.

"The goal is to have all of them reading before they leave my classroom so I'm excited for that. It's always a lot of fun. Mathwise we learn the numbers up to 20 and then we learn addition, so lots of fun stuff," she said.

In other words, it's a process. Whatever Bell can do to help her students see the big picture, she's excited to do that, too.

"I think it also helps with 'college' if you talk about the football team or basketball teams at that time of year. Then they grasp it a little bit more. Then they're more connected with what they're families are doing," Bell said.

As for her alma mater's football season opener against North Dakota, Bell said she'll have to miss it.

"It's back to school night tonight," she said.