AUBURN — Kindergarten students discovered they had much in common with high school students Thursday at Park Avenue Elementary School.

The big kids are Edward Little students.

The little kids will be Edward Little students.

The big kids wore white shirts that proclaimed them as members of the Class of 2010.

The little kids wore maroon shirts that proclaimed them as members of the Class of 2022.

The first of its kind union between high schoolers and kindergartners was to:

* Boost Auburn’s high school graduation rate of 78 percent.

* Introduce young students to their high school.

* Plant seeds about college.

In the school gym, five Edward Little seniors stood smiling before the young audience. They were introduced by Auburn Assistant Superintendent Katy Grondin.

“We are hoping you one day will be seniors at Edward Little High School,” Grondin said. “How many of you have heard of Edward Little High School?”

About half raised their hands.

Grondin motioned to the high schoolers. “Do you think they were in kindergarten once?”

“No,” several answered.

They were, she assured them.

The seniors, Jessica Campbell, Carmen Lasagne, Katie Williamson, Hanna Mogensen and Tim Brodsky, told the students where they went to kindergarten. They offered some school advice. Never give up and work hard, Campbell said.

Try your best but have fun, Mogensen said.

They talked about their plans to become a doctor, a teacher, or work in science after graduating from colleges in Maine, Vermont and New York.

After calling attention to the Edward Little shirts the big kids wore, kindergarten teacher Linda Leiva unveiled the shirts for the little kids.

“What does this say?” Leiva asked.

“Class of 2022,” the youngsters read aloud.

“In 12 years you’ll be standing here talking to kindergarten students encouraging them to graduate from high school and go on to college,” Grondin said.

On the back of the shirts were the names of Lewiston-Auburn colleges: Bates, Andover, Central Maine Community and the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College. “Look at all those colleges you could go to right here in town!” Grondin said.

When it was time to hand out the shirts, the seniors did the honors.

As they helped pull the shirt on over their clothes, seniors asked students what they wanted to be.

“A baby doctor,” a girl named Sophia told Williamson.

Others said they wanted to be a firefighter, a taxi cab driver, a doctor, a superhero with laser eyes.

When the shirts were on, students posed for a group picture.

After, EL student Tim Brodsky said he hopes the event will help motivate the young students to do well in school, graduate from high school, go to college and be successful.

“When I was younger looking up at any older kids that came down and read to us was a big motivation,” Brodsky said.

Meeting the older kids makes him think, “Oh I want to be like them when I get older. I want to get to where they are.”

Grondin said more events to link the high school with younger students are planned.

College representatives, including Matthew Cote of Andover, Jan Phillips of College for ME-Androscoggin, and University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College Dean Joyce Gibson, mingled with the kindergartners.

The dean said it was her first time meeting kindergarten students as prospective college students. “Usually I meet with middle or high school students,” Gibson said. “It’s never too early to set high expectations.”

“This is the best,” Phillips said. “It’s really going to start growing that college-going culture. We’re very excited, delighted, at this. They’re going to go home and talk about college now and what they’re going to be when they grow up.”

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Hanna Mogensen, right, a senior at Edward Little High School, visits Park Avenue Elementary School kindergarten students, introduced as the Class of 2022 on Thursday. From left, Tanya Rose Garcia, Sierra Dillon and Sophia Hartley sport the new shirts that were passed out to get young students to think about their future roles as high school and college students.

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