Future Colonel Program Opens Eyes, Minds of Area Elementary Students

photo from Future Colonel visit

For fourth- and fifth-graders, especially those from rural communities, a college campus can be a distant and daunting place.

As first-generation college graduates from Eastern Kentucky University in 1975, Bob and Gayle Mason McCroskey figured the best way they could enrich the lives of future generations would be to demystify the college experience for them and start them on a path to lifelong learning.

Their latest contribution to their alma mater has enabled the establishment of the Future Colonel Program, which is coordinated by EKU Libraries. Sixty-nine fourth-graders from Stanford Elementary in Lincoln County visited the Richmond campus this fall, and hundreds more students from other rural counties will visit in the years to come.

While on their day-long visits to EKU, the youngsters will see first-hand what life as a college student is like. They will tour John Grant Crabbe Main Library and the colorful Noel Studio for Academic Creativity, see a program at the renovated Hummel Planetarium, enjoy lunch at the Powell Student Center (which prompted one young student to say he would come to EKU if only for the pizza), visit a typical residence hall room, tour the campus, listen to guides talk about campus life and, of course, rub Daniel Boone’s toe for good luck, in keeping with a long-time campus tradition. Ashley Cole and Amy Salyer of the Libraries staff are helping to coordinate the visits.

“We wanted to make a difference in children’s lives, those who would not otherwise be exposed to the possibilities available to them,” said Ms. McCroskey, who is now a successful CPA in Lewisburg, W.Va., and whose husband succeeded in the optical industry. “We liked the idea of children from depressed counties coming to campus and seeing what the world holds, and that it is possible for them to do something different from what they have seen all around them.”

If those students follow the McCroskeys’ footsteps, they’ll wind up at Eastern, but the couple’s investment will not go for naught even if the young people pursue their dreams elsewhere.

“While we would love to think that they will choose Eastern if they attend college,” Ms. McCroskey said, “we just want them to know they have the option to go to any college they set their minds to.”

Having grown up in Morgan County in rural eastern Kentucky, Betina Gardner, dean of EKU Libraries, speaks from experience.

“Children from depressed counties and rural communities are less likely to choose college as an option for their future,” Gardner said. “Just a glimpse of college life could make all the difference. Opportunities like this give children a sense of possibility and instill hope, ambition, and a dream to one day do great things.

“We hope that these kids will choose post-secondary education and, more specifically, Eastern Kentucky University,” Gardner added. “We are confident that this field trip will inspire at least one child to go to college who had not thought it possible before. We know that we have the best of what’s to offer and hope that the children will choose EKU to make their dreams come true.”

Certainly, that’s what Eastern did for the McCroskeys, who have a long history of giving generously to the University, including the establishment of an annual scholarship to support female accounting students.

“I received an excellent education at Eastern, and it has provided me with a wonderful accounting practice,” Ms. McCroskey said. “I was helped immeasurably by others whom I can never repay. The best thing I can do is ‘pass it on.’ I truly hope we have passed it on to these students by opening up their worlds.”

Published on December 09, 2013