Millikin Hosts Group of Decatur Public School Third-Grade Students

Students from Franklin Grove Elementary School spent a day on campus

Visiting Students

DECATUR – Millikin University hosted a group of Decatur Public School students on March 9, giving many in the class their first experience on a college campus. 

The event -- the Black Boys Summit -- was facilitated by the Decatur-based non-profit organization Caring Black Men, which has a primary mission of assisting African American males to become positive and productive citizens in our community. 

“We are trying to expose them to a different atmosphere. We want them to see what campus life is all about and expose them to some things that they didn’t know as well as understand the importance of education at the same time,” President and Founder of Caring Black Men Jeffrey Perkins said. “I believe it is important for them to see African American males in the school system. You don’t see too many of them in schools. They can talk about their life experience, their job experience and their educational experience.”

The 17 third graders from Decatur's Franklin Grove Elementary School took a campus tour, enjoyed lunch in Millikin’s Dining Hall and then participated in three group discussion sessions with three members of the Millikin faculty. 

Associate Professor in the School of Music and Conductor of the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra Dr. William McClain, Director of the Criminal Justice Program Keyria Rodgers and Big Blue Head Football Coach Carlton Hall led the smaller break-out sessions with the students. 

“Each of us has a specialty and a background, so I thought we should focus on everything the media doesn’t show our Black boys. You don’t see Black conductors and you don’t see Black violinists. I want them to see that they can be creative,” McClain said. “There is so much that the media tells them about who to be. I grew up unable to see any examples of people like me conducting. The media tells me that I’m tall and I should be a basketball player or that I’m Black and I should be a hip-hop star. I want them to see us up there being professors and teachers. They have seen it, and it isn’t an exception now.”

Visiting Students
Director of the Criminal Justice Program Keyria Rodgers (middle) talks with students from Franklin Grove Elementary School. 

Rodgers joined the group for lunch in the cafeteria and led the students in a game during her sessions. 

“Lunch was fun, and they talked about how much they enjoyed the food. They said it was the best food they had ever had and was better than their mom’s cooking,” Rodgers said. “I did an exercise called the Hands Down Game. The idea is hands down, this is the best thing ever. You start with a broad category and narrow in to find common ground among everyone at the table. You will eventually find common ground that everyone finds interesting.”

Visiting Students
Head Football Coach Carlton Hall (right) talks with students from Franklin Grove Elementary School.

Hall, who took over head coaching duties this past season, was a member of the San Diego Chargers in 1998. He could see himself in the lively and always-moving group of students. 

“I thought I could just tell them that I am the football coach, and I even had to tell them that I played in the NFL. They were more interested in the shoes that I was wearing,” Hall said. “When I was a kid their age, I was the class clown. I was making jokes and not paying attention. My serious point with them is that you don’t always have to be the class clown.”

Another goal for McClain was to demonstrate to the students that Millikin was an option for them as they thought about college and continuing their education. 

Visiting Students
Dr. William McClain (middle) talks with students from Franklin Grove Elementary School. 

“I asked how many of them thought they could come here and I got a few hands,” McClain said. “I told them that they all can come to Millikin and that they are all good enough. You can come here and meet me and join the campus. That seemed to connect with them and hopefully, they don’t see this as some big place they can’t go to.”