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Community college students adopt kindergarten at Alder Elementary

Effort is part of school's 'Dreamer' program begun last year
by: JIM CLARK Mt. Hood Community College student Hector Salazar reads to kindergarten students at Alder Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 24. The students handed out  Mt. Hood banners to  all the children, telling them to hang them in their bedrooms.

Ivan Soto, 5, a kindergarten student at Alder Elementary School in the Reynolds School District, says he wants to become a police officer when he grows up.

'Because they can put people in jail,' he says, quickly adding, however, that he'll incarcerate only bad people.

Before he becomes an officer, Soto hopes to go to college, a dream school officials hope all his classmates share. One way they're encouraging this dream is by inspiring students like Josseline Chavez, 6, to read more.

Chavez says she does like to read, particularly about princesses because 'they're cute.'

Adoption procedure

Soto and Chaves were in the kindergarten class 'adopted' by students from Mt. Hood Community College on Feb. 24.

The kindergartners received a Mt. Hood banner, pennants and T-shirts. Two Mt. Hood students, Hector Salazar, who is studying computer networking, and Patrick Nearing, who is studying jazz, visited Alejandrá Barragan's kindergarten class and read to the students as part of the day's activities.

Meanwhile, other Alder classes were adopted by Portland Community College, Concordia University, Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College and Portland State University.

The adoptions were part of Alder's 'Dreamers' program. As the nation's first 'Dreamers School,' Alder is supported by the national I Have A Dream Foundation, based in New York City. The foundation brings tutors to schools that have a population of mostly low-income students. The foundation also links those students and their families to health, housing and other social services.

Alder Principal Paz Ramos says 95 percent of Alder students are on free or reduced meal programs and live in one of the state's poorest neighborhoods.

Dreamer goals include seeing 80 percent of Alder students obtain a post-secondary degree or certificate and seeing 90 percent of Alder students meeting or exceeding the expectations of the Oregon benchmark tests in grades third, fifth and eighth, officials say.

Ramos thanked all the visiting college students for coming in and meeting the children. He notes such visits enable the children to imagine going to college someday.

'These kids are our future,' he told the college students. 'They're going to be running our country.'

Ramos says he hopes even more colleges will consider adopting classes at Alder, and says he's going to arrange visits to campuses of the adopting schools. He is also encouraging the college students to volunteer as mentors and tutors at Alder.

He adds his students were excited to meet the college students, and every Friday from now on will be 'University Day' at Alder. Students will be asked to wear college T-shirts, he says.