UW Today

October 12, 2011

Dawgs-to-be in Onalaska ‘adopt UW, get flood of Husky stuff

There are some real Dawgs wearing purple down in Onalaska, Wash., but they arent alums of the UW. Their teacher hopes, however, that someday they will be. These real Dawgs are fifth-graders in Cheryl Smaciarzs class, and they got at least some of their purple from generous UW departments.

Cheryl Smaciarz's students wear their 'scholar berets' and other Husky gear.

It all started last spring, when Smaciarzs principal said to the teachers at the K-8 school, “We really need to get these kids thinking beyond their own class level, beyond high school even. Wouldnt it be great if we really focused on college and the future?”

Onalaska is a town of about 4,000 located southeast of Centralia. It has historically been a logging town and many of its inhabitants dont have a college degree, so their children lack role models for going on to higher education.

The teachers thought their principal had a great idea, so they decided that each teacher would “adopt” a college in Washington and bring some of that college into the classroom. Smaciarz picked the UW. Immediately she decided that she would decorate her classroom with some artifacts from the University — some posters, maybe.

But how to contact the UW? Smaciarz naturally went to the web, found a website and clicked on “contact us.” No one knows quite how it happened, but the person who ultimately received her request was Sara Brydges, program coordinator for Commuter Services.

Photos of the campus and other UW-related items grace the bulletin board in Cheryl Smaciarz's fifth grade classroom.

“I read her message, and she just seemed so genuine and sincere,” Brydges said. “I didnt even know where Onalaska was so I had to Google it. Then, Instead of just saying I couldnt do anything, I decided to see if I could help her out.”

Brydges forwarded Smaciarzs request to her colleagues in the UW Event Managers Network, adding her own plea to help the teacher.

The response was immediate and positive. People offered everything from posters to buttons to booklets. It was early July, and Brydges set a deadline of the end of the month for receiving donations. By then she had collected from:

  • UW Alumni Association (UW magnets and purple pompoms)
  • School of Pharmacy (pens, window clings, and a poster)
  • Commuter Services (UW bike seat covers, coin purses, U-PASS velcro pouches, U-PASS blinkies, UWalk pedometers)
  • UW Book Store (pennant)
  • UW folders and stickers from a mystery donor
  • University of Washington Press (bookmarks and custom printed shopping bags)
  • Office of External Affairs (buttons, key chains, Husky cut-out and posters)
  • Undergraduate Academic Affairs (posters)
  • UW Marketing (big stack of “W” window clings)
  • Human Centered Design & Engineering (stickers, bookmarks, sticky note pads, departmental brochures and a frisbee)
  • UW Tacoma (bags, posters, pens, magnets, back massagers, UW Tacoma magazines, pennant, bookmarks and a drink cup)
  • UWTV (posters, post-it pads, bookmarks and UW 360 DVDs)
  • The Burke Museum (brochures)
  • Foster School Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (poster, campus map, mini poster, note cards, purple and gold mardi gras beads, metal puzzles, J.P. Patches action figure and pirate bobble head)
Encouraging kids to go to college is the purpose of the UW decorations in this Onalaska, Wash. classroom.

Encouraging kids to go to college is the purpose of the UW decorations in this Onalaska, Wash. classroom.

Brydges sent off four big boxes and a tube of rolled-up posters to Smaciarz. But there was one item that was a little difficult to mail. Commuter Services had donated a life-sized cut-out of Dubs, the Husky mascot. Fortunately, Smaciarzs daughter Karly is a UW alum and a rabid Husky fan. She drove to campus to pick up the cut-out and deliver it to her mothers classroom.

That Dubs cut-out now sits outside the door to Smaciarzs classroom, and every day she gives her students an affirmation to say to him as they come in — something like “Im smart,” “Im here and Im ready to learn.” The kids carry Dubs with them when they go to assemblies. Theyve also taken to wearing the bicycle seat covers on their heads as “scholar berets.”

“We are by far the most recognized, colorful and popular college represented at our school,” Smaciarz said.

The teacher is incorporating parts of what she received into actual lesson plans too. The pedometers from Commuter Services, for example, “will fit right into a unit Im doing on health and fitness.” And some of the UW 360 programs will be used in science class.

The material has also been used as part of the schools positive behavior incentive program that allows students to earn “scholar dollars” for being safe, responsible and respectful. Students save their scholar dollars to buy special privileges or popular items. The UW buttons and keychains have become hot commodities for those with scholar dollars to spend.

Beyond the trinkets, however, Smaciarz said the project has “opened up the conversation about scholarships and doing well in school. This is a small town, and kids tend not to see beyond whats here and what their parents are doing.”

Which, after all, is the purpose the schools principal had in mind when she proposed teachers focus on college and the future. Brydges is proud that people at the UW were willing to contribute to making that happen.

“It was a great show of Husky spirit,” she said “Everyone wanted to help out these kids and inspire a future generation of college students.”