Amherst Connects with Crocker Farm Elementary

Contact: Reilly Horan '13

AMHERST, Mass. – On Jan. 18, Amherst College students, faculty, student-athletes and coaches traveled to Crocker Farm Elementary School to participate in the second annual Amherst College Day.

“The thrust of Amherst College Day is to tell kids from grades 3-6 that college is more than just a possibility,” said Angela Mills, wife of Amherst football head coach E.J. Mills and one of the event’s organizers. “The participants emphasized that places like Amherst are really special because they make schooling affordable and accessible, even for students with financial constraints.”

Amherst coaches and students stressed the importance of
education to the Crocker Farm Elementary School children.

The principal of Crocker Farm, Mike Morris, is an Amherst alumnus who originally spearheaded the day to start an important conversation between his students and college students. “The theme of the day was access,” Morris said. “There was a recent study that concluded, after surveying 12-year-olds about whether or not they thought they would attend college, that the majority of them were right. That is, a collegiate education is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good news is we can change what the kids say.”

Amherst College Day participants included members of Amherst’s crew, track & field, cross country, men’s tennis, men’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, women’s basketball and football teams. Members of the school’s Psychology, Chemistry, and Economics departments also participated.  

Through numerous small-group activities ranging from lacrosse lessons to neuroscience experiments, students and faculty shared their perspective on college life and offered sage advice on the importance of getting there. “The day really humanizes the college experience for the kids,” Angela Mills said. Mills offered the example of the women’s basketball team, which led its group in a discussion about what makes college cool. Among the top reasons were: taking interesting classes, getting to try new things, and the absence of a predetermined bed time.

The morning was headlined by Amherst men’s lacrosse head coach Jon Thompson, who spoke about the benefits of a college education, diversity, and the vitality of pursuing one’s interests. “More than anything, it was a moment to emphasize that they have the ability to be both a good student and pursue the things that interest them,” Thompson said. “You can do both, and do both well.”

Amherst College Day, which is sure to be a recurring event between Amherst and Crocker Farm, is one of the ways in which schools in the five-college area can connect with their community to teach the accessibility of higher education. “On this day,” Morris said, “the kids got a very clear message: college is there for them.”

Extra Credit
Two of the teams that participated in Amherst College Day—men’s tennis and football—have established a more lasting relationship with Crocker Farm, offering to volunteer every Wednesday for an after-school program. Crocker Farm students are released an hour and twenty minutes early from school on Wednesdays to create enrichment time for teachers. There spawned an opportunity and necessity for an after-school program that would provide students with a safe, fun, and educational environment in which to spend that time.

Members of Amherst's women's basketball team shared
their thoughts on college life with the Crocker Farm children.

“Wednesday Clubs was started about three years ago by Erika Zekos, an architect in town whose kids attended Crocker,” Angela Mills said. “Parents volunteer to teach a weekly class in anything, really. This session we have arts and crafts, a writing club, ‘Fun with Food,’ and knitting, to name a few. They’re all great.” (Mills leads the outdoor adventures club.)

Members of the men’s tennis team opted for chess club, traveling to Crocker Farm once a week to teach skills and supervise matches. The football team leads “Ball Games,” a club designed to keep kids active and teach basic sports skills. “With the bonds being created between our players and the kids, we’re creating a support system,” E.J. Mills said. “Our guys become role models for the kids to look up to, examples they can follow. The impact is immeasurable.”

“As a college community, we could do more,” Coach Mills added. “You can’t underestimate the impact of our student body. We have an amazing group of people here who have so much to give and share. You just can’t put a price tag on it.”

Teams that are interested in getting involved with the after-school program are encouraged to contact an Athletics Liaison (see contact information below). The program is a once-a-week commitment from 1:20-2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and teams can either offer to lead a pre-existing club or pitch their own idea. The next session is Feb. 29-Mar. 28.

Reilly Horan ’13 is one of three Athletics Liaisons for the Center for Community Engagement. Athletics Liaisons connect athletes and coaches to the resources of the Center for Community Engagement and work to create a sustainable culture of service within the Athletics Department. 

If your team is looking for community engagement projects
contact Roshard Bryant ’13 or Irene Hickey ’13 for advice and resources.

If your team just completed a community engagement event
, contact Reilly Horan ’13
so that the campus can become more aware of what your team is doing to get involved.