Elementary students at Kyrene de los Niños in Tempe are ready for school. But not just any school. Setting their sights beyond the second grade, they chant NAU cheers and sing the NAU Fight Song. They are training to become Lumberjacks.

Kyrene de los Niños

Students in Kim Mason and Carrin Rowe’s second-grade class form the letters ‘L’ and ‘J’ for the Lumberjacks. Photo by staff at Kyrene de los Niños

“We are Niños School! We are college bound!” is the motto at Kyrene de los Niños and it is taken very seriously.

Ana Gomez del Castillo, principal, states in a letter to parents, “Our staff believes that college readiness begins at the elementary school and not at high school. Therefore, our entire staff is working hard to ensure that we do ‘whatever it takes’ to provide every student the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares them for college. We believe that all students can learn and it is OUR job to make this happen!”

In line with this philosophy, each classroom has adopted a different university to study and to support.

Teacher and NAU alumna Kim (Blau) Mason and her fellow second-grade teacher Carrin Rowe adopted NAU. They helped their students catch the Lumberjack spirit by requesting items from Cindy Anderson, senior associate director for the Office of Residence Life, to decorate their classroom.

“They wanted a banner to hang outside of their classroom and anything else I could gather. The NAU Bookstore gave pencils and ‘bam-bam’ sticks. Enrollment Services gave homework folders,” Anderson recalled. “Fronske donated water bottles. Orientation gave book bags. Residence Life gave pom poms. Athletics gave posters.”

With classrooms donned in full NAU regalia and students wearing their new NAU True Blue shirts (a gift from Anderson) on Fridays, there was only one thing left to do. Invite a real live Lumberjack or two to visit the students.

Kyrene de los Niños

Inside the classroom, future Lumberjacks listen to Andrew Parady discuss his experiences at NAU. Photo by staff at Kyrene de los Niños

Andrew Parady, secondary education major with an emphasis in history, walked into Mason’s classroom on an NAU True Blue Friday and felt right at home. Parady was a student at Kyrene de los Niños 15 years ago and is now an example of the school’s motto.

But when he realized that he was in his very same second-grade classroom, “His look of amazement was priceless. He was home!” said Gomez del Castillo.

The following month, Amanda Bollard, a speech pathology major, came for a visit. Bearing NAU gifts for both the teachers and students, she also brought something more long-lasting.

Bollard, a residence hall staff member and member of the National Residence Hall Honorary, invited the students to be the Honorary’s adopted class and to be e-pals. The excited second graders accepted and now correspond once a month with their new Lumberjack friends.

“Receiving letters back is awesome because we have all forgotten what it was like when we were that young and it helps us see the bigger picture,” Bollard said. “Knowing that our voices could maybe influence the life of one student is why the Honorary has become involved with the e-pals.”

If the students could have one more wish, there is one thing they lack—a visit from Louie, the world’s biggest Lumberjack.