Coming together: Baylor rewards local STAAR test students
By Emily Ballard
Four hundred elementary school children gathered Thursday in Fountain Mall on the Baylor campus. Delta Epsilon Psi welcomed kids from Brook Avenue Elementary and J.H. Hines Elementary as part of Project Come Together, a field day they organize for children in these two low-performance and underprivileged elementary schools of Waco ISD.
The kids spent the afternoon playing games, bouncing around in inflatable castles and singing along to pre-teen pop songs like the famous ’90s hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by Baha Men.
The event was for third, fourth and fifth graders who recently completed the STAAR test, the Texas standardized test required by public schools.
Brook Avenue and J.H. Hines have been labeled low-performance schools based on previous standardized test scores. Bentonville, Ark., senior Ankur Pradhan, president of Delta Epsilon Psi, said it is not uncommon for students in low-performing schools to not show up for the STAAR test. Fifth graders must pass the STAAR test to move on to sixth grade.
“The whole mission of Project Come Together is to reward those students in low-performing schools who show up and take the STAAR test,” Pradhan said.
The children looked happy, full of energy and were interacting with Baylor students who managed the games. A group of elementary children did the “Wobble” dance alongside Baylor students. Shrieks could be heard from across the grass field of Fountain Mall as the children zoomed down an inflatable slide, a few daring souls going down it on their stomachs.
The children swarmed around booths that offered facepainting and small exotic animals on display.
Karen Arellano, a fifth grader at Brook Avenue Elementary, said her favorite part of the event was zip-lining.
“It’s been very fun,” she said while holding a large slice of pizza that Baylor students provided for all the children.
The organization reached its goal of providing an incentive for the elementary children to take the standardized test that many children find daunting and dreadful.
“This year at Brook Avenue, every third through fifth grader showed up to take the
STAAR test,” Pradhan said.
While planning the event, the organization leaders kept in mind the young students’ long-term educational goals. They worked to create a positive image of Baylor and college life.
“By bringing them to Baylor, we are exposing them to college at an early age,” Pradhan said. Before the fun and games began, Pradhan encouraged the elementary children to keep working hard in school and that they could end up at Baylor one day.
Delta Epsilon Psi members worked alongside members from other multicultural Greek council members of Delta Kappa Delta, Kappa Delta Chi, Kappa Phi Gamma and Gamma Alpha Omega. Intrafraternity council members of Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Tau Omega, panhellenic council members of Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Beta Phi and national panhellenic council members of Zeta Phi Beta offered helping hands Medical Service Organization members, Beta Upsilon Chi members and Alpha Lambda Delta members also helped.
The physics and biology department sent additional volunteers. It was truly a campus-wide event.
“In a way, it was a Greek unity event,” Pradhan said. “We had support from all four Greek councils on campus.”
Baylor students helping with the event had an early start to the morning and worked until 2 p.m. setting up booths and overseeing games and inflatables in one of the warmest days of the spring so far, reaching 88 degrees.
“We got here at six in the morning,” said Dallas junior Uzair Shahnawaz, a member of Delta Epsilon Psi. Houston freshman Rayomand Katrak said they tried to make the event all about the kids.
“It was a lot of hard work but worth it to see the kids having fun,” Katrak said.