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College is everywhere at Sonora Elementary

Costa Mesa school one of two in county in the No Excuses University network, which instills college-bound practices in the classroom.

October 27, 2011|By Britney Barnes
  • CELEBRATE HARVARD: 2nd graders in Judith Chambers class, perform the Harvard school chant during Friday's university day at Sonora Elementary. Maria Rubio, above, leads the class.
CELEBRATE HARVARD: 2nd graders in Judith Chambers class,… (DON LEACH, don.leach@latimes.com )

COSTA MESA — Anyone walking around Sonora Elementary School this year would notice the changes.

University flags hang outside classrooms. Teachers and students wear different college T-shirts. Words like graduate, dormitory and dean's list have entered the student lexicon.

College is everywhere.

Sonora was recently accepted into the No Excuses University, a network of elementary, middle and high schools across the U.S. dedicated to exposing students to collegiate symbolism and preparing them for college.

"We drum it into them because the theory of No Excuses University is if you wait until high school to start talking about college, it's too late," said Principal Christine Anderson.

Sonora is one of only two Orange County schools in the network, the other being Killybrooke Elementary.

But being part of the network is more about a philosophy than just a new program, said Anderson. She added that she doesn't think some of her school's families would have talked to their children about college if it weren't for No Excuses.

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"It's about a change of thinking," she said. "And really, the philosophy is that all children in elementary school deserve the right to be prepared for any college they choose to attend."

Sonora's new philosophy revolves around telling all students that they are college bound, and having them buy into the idea and take ownership of their education.

"We are excited to have kids believe in themselves that they are college bound starting in kindergarten," said sixth-grade teacher Debra Muniz.

No Excuses doesn't extend to just good grades and going to college. The motto is used in all aspects of school, from being late and not doing homework to student discipline and having poor character.

When students are sent to her office, the first question Anderson asks them is if they are going to college. The second question is if their actions are helping them get a better education and go to college.

The philosophy is kept in the students' minds through visuals of college symbolism.

Sonora's mascot, the Eagle, is now clad is a graduation cap and gown, University of Notre Dame's "Win like a champion" signs are placed around the school, and each classroom has adopted a university and memorized a chant.

"Want to be a winner? Want to be a star? Harvard will take you far, far, far," sang the second-grader of Judith Chambers' class.

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