Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


April 9, 2009

Middle school students inspired to pursue dreams during UI visit

Anyone can achieve the American Dream if they have hope and work hard.

This is a strong message that an estimated 100 Cedar Rapids black middle school students and their teachers will hear when they visit the University of Iowa from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 17, for an interactive, on-campus visit directed by University of Iowa College of Education faculty, staff and students.

A major component of the visit will be a discussion of Barack Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream."

The purpose of the trip, according to John Achrazoglou, adjunct faculty and director of the Education Technology Center in the UI College of Education, is to provide students with insight into college life and to inspire them to plan for their futures. The visit will also give UI students and staff an opportunity to work with the students, who will be accompanied by eight Cedar Rapids Community Middle School staff members.

Obama has been invited to join the outreach activities in person or via videoconference, according to Achrazoglou, though they have yet to receive a confirmation or regrets.

"We want these students to think and dream big," Achrazoglou said. "Whether it's becoming the president of the U.S. or a teacher or an engineer, we want to inspire them to think about all the possibilities they can achieve by pursuing higher education."

Clar Baldus, adjunct faculty and College of Education's Belin-Blank Center administrator, said the students chose the book because of its timeliness with the election of the U.S.'s first black president.

"The interaction and discussion about a common book will provide the students a sense of community within their own schools and among the small groups," Baldus said. "The students will have the opportunity to share ideas with UI staff and students. We hope the experience will inspire them to plan for college, and especially consider what the UI has to offer."

The College of Education Diversity Committee, the UI Center for Diversity and Enrichment and the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development are sponsoring the visit. This is the third year for the program.

The students are from the McKinley, Franklin and Roosevelt African American Awareness Programs, which help black students learn about and develop pride in their histories and cultures as well as value education and increase academic expectations. For more information on the McKinley African American Awareness program visit

Highlights of the trip include a welcome by Marisa Moore, counseling coordinator for the UI Center for Diversity and Enrichment, and a panel of UI students from 9 to 10:15 a.m. in the Jones Commons, 301 Lindquist Center. UI students on the panel include Barbara Nzegwu, Majesta Ochoa, Janie Ortiz, Susel Perez, Jostten Sackitey, Judi Yapias and Krizia Zearley.

College of Education staff will present the e-Portfolio project, assistive technology and clickers (an interactive tool for teaching and learning) from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in 301 Lindquist Center. A lunch will follow from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at Burge Residence Hall.

From 12:45 to 2 p.m. the middle school students will be welcomed by Belin-Blank Center staff and will participate in small group book discussions facilitated by College of Education students and staff in rooms in the third, fifth and sixth floors of the UI Blank Honors Center. The students will discuss the book "Audacity of Hope."

College of Education staff and students met with Cedar Rapids Community School District students to discuss the book "Nightjohn" by Gary Paulsen, a book selected by UI staff, during a similar visit to the UI Cedar Rapids McKinley Middle School in March.

For more information about the visit contact Clar Baldus at or 319-335-6189 or John Achrazoglou at or 319-335-5620.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Members of the media are welcome to cover this event. To arrange an interview, call Lois Gray in University News Services at 319-384-0077.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,; John Achrazoglou, Learning Resource Center, 319-335-5620,