For the fifth-grade students of Jason Clark ’02C, a lunch at the DUC was about more than just eating hamburgers and pizza.

Clark arranged for his entire class to spend a day at the University last spring, and for an Emory student or faculty member to be at each table during lunch. A bright yellow handout reminded students to use their etiquette skills, share their career goals, and “ask your lunchtime buddy for their business card or e-mail address.”

Why the early networking?

“A meal isn’t always about just consuming food. A meal is a time to interact with someone,” Clark said. “I want them to be able to ask intelligent questions, use active listening, and get information back that they’ll be able to carry with them–to take it to the next level.”

Clark, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Emory, teaches elementary school in Atlanta as part of the Teach for America program. The program, which requires a two-year commitment, places outstanding recent college graduates of all majors in urban and rural public schools.

Tracy Rone, an assistant professor of anthropology who taught Clark while he was at Emory, attended the lunch.

“Jason was a really special student. He took a lot of positive risks in the classroom. I am happy to support him,” said Rone, who also gave a guest lecture to Clark’s class at Jones Elementary earlier in the school year. “They caught on really fast.”

Eleven-year-old Danielle Jackson said she enjoyed having Clark as a teacher because “he makes assignments fun and really interesting and works hard to break things down so we can learn it. Also, he tells us jokes.”

She was impressed with Emory, as well. “It’s the most amazing college,” she said. “The dorm rooms, the libraries. . . . I am definitely planning on going here.”

The students toured the campus, including the Woodruff P.E. Center and the Michael C. Carlos Museum, attended a scholarship information session with Senior Associate Dean Peter Dowell and Martin Luther King scholarship recipients, sat in on a literary seminar in the Woodruff Library, and heard a lecture by Associate Dean Nagueyalti Warren on an Alice Walker novella.

“I wanted them to see Emory as a place of plenty, a place of enrichment and excitement, and a place they can come if they focus and continue to work hard,” Clark said. “I wanted them to see the person they aspire to be.”

Clark took special care to enlist male role models like Paul Simms, a sophomore who is a member of the Brotherhood of Afro-Centric Men. “I try to do something like this every month or so,” Simms said. “I just talk to the students about general stuff, like what college is like, and what they want to do in life.”

Eleven-year-olds Deion and Daesha Robinson, twins from Jones Elementary, know exactly what they want to be: teachers. “So that I can teach other students what my teacher taught me,” Daesha said.–M.J.L.



© 2003 Emory University