Barberton High School students get a glimpse of college life at UA

Written by: Heather Beyer

Students from Barberton High School had a small glimpse of college life today at The University of Akron when they visited the campus with their mentors from The Barberton Project.

“It was good to be with the kids in a relaxed setting,” UA education major Katie Wallis said. “It was nice to give them the gory details of the university that you don’t get in the brochures.”

Barberton students and mentors toured the campus, ate at Robertson Dining Hall, learned about financial aid options at Simmons Hall, viewed residence halls and concluded the day with a poetry slam at the Honors Complex.

“I enjoyed showing the Barberton students around and connecting with them on a more personal level,” UA education major Dina Pierce said. “I had a really good time today.”

At the poetry slam, the UA education mentors and Barberton students shared poetry with each other. UA students read “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, “The Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll and  “Dreams” by Langston Hughes. There were even some original poems read by the UA education students and Dr. Hal Foster, the founder and director of the Barberton Project.

After seeing the enthusiasm of their mentors, Barberton students were inclined to read their own poetry.

Barberton student Todd Brown, 18, read his poem “Monster.”

“It was awesome,” Brown said. “My heart was thumping, but I couldn’t wait to do it.”

Crystal Kouns has worked closely with Brown throughout the Barberton Project . She said she always encouraged him to express himself through writing.

“I just swell with pride,” Kouns said. “ It was like being a mother and seeing your child graduate. He has the courage to shine his light.”

This day held a lot of significance to Barberton students, their mentors, Foster and Barberton teacher Brittany LaCroix . Yesterday at 2 p.m., while UA students were teaching the Barberton students their Shakespeare unit, LaCroix was called to the principal’s office.

Due the $9 million deficit Barberton City School District faces, LaCroix’s position will be terminated at the end of the year.

“My stomach hurt,” Foster said. “It was like something awful happened to someone I really care about.”

Foster took UA students into another room to break the news to them.

“I was shocked, disappointed and nauseated,” UA education major Mary Borton said. “I think that she does such a great job with those kids, and I don’t think they could ever replace her.”

LaCroix is currently the cheerleading head coach and 11th grade English teacher at Barberton High School.

“Students are really upset that she is losing her job,” Wallis said. “It is nice to see how much her students care about her.”

Foster would like to encourage aspiring educators that even though “education right now is being starved, it will come back,” he said.  “I am so proud of the people who want to teach despite the bad times they may face.”