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Fourth-Grade Students Explore ELA

How did you find out about Emerson? How many YouTubers studied here? What’s your favorite animal? Were any movies made here? Do you make cartoons? What’s your favorite Star Wars character?

These are just a few of the questions that a group of fourth graders from KIPP Iluminar Academy asked a panel of alumni and current students when they visited Emerson College Los Angeles (ELA) on December 1.

“These field trips are so important so that [the students] can see what a college looks like and to make it real,” said Sophie Meuch ’13, one of the fourth-grade teachers at KIPP Iluminar and one of three alumni who teaches at the school. “They might not have the opportunity otherwise.”

Sophie Meuch '13 said she wanted to become a teacher to “make a difference earlier in a person's life and education is the key to opportunity and equality.” Photo/Daryl Paranada

KIPP Ilumniar Academy is a tuition–free public charter elementary school located in East LA. Founded in summer 2013, KIPP Iluminar serves 556 kindergarten through fourth-grade students. It focuses on preparing students from underresourced communities in LA for success in school, college, and life. Ximena Alvarado is one of KIPP Iluminar’s students.

“I want to be a judge and author one day,” said Alvarado, whose favorite part of the day was seeing ELA’s residence hall rooms. “Today, I learned how important it is to learn.”

Each class at KIPP Iluminar is associated with a college to encourage the students to pursue higher education. Meuch’s third-grade class was named Emerson College. Because her kids were really pumped up about Emerson last year, Meuch decided to visit the College this year. To bring the students to ELA, Meuch reached out to a former classmate, Charvelle Holder ’13, ELA’s communications, planning, and outreach coordinator.

“Having fourth graders explore ELA and showing them the center was both a fulfilling and fun experience,” said Holder. “I hope that in a few years, some of these students will be applying to attend Emerson College in Boston.”

From left: Chris DeCelle ’92, Billy Finn ’14, Patrick Sugar ’18, and Casey Hudacko '17. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Along with touring the center, the fourth graders ate lunch on ELA’s second-floor terrace and received advice from a panel of alumni and current students. Panelists included Chris DeCelle ’92, a freelance director; Billy Finn ’14, a wizard at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood; Casey Hudacko ’17, a production intern at NBCUniversal; and Patrick Sugar ’18, an intern at NewFilmmakers LA.

When asked what their favorite part about Emerson was, many of the panelists spoke about the opportunities the College has given them.

“Emerson showed me a path on how to get to where I am now,” said DeCelle. “I direct and produce live events and TV shows, and Emerson really opened up that door.”

Hudacko said spending a semester at ELA was the first time she had ever been out to the West Coast and spoke about how she loves being able to do what she loves each day.
“Working at NBCUniversal has been a great opportunity and so much fun,” said Hudacko, who has helped work on the pre-show for NBC’s telecast of Hairspray Live. “I’ve met a bunch of people. The only one I think you’d know is Ariana Grande.”

Fourth-grade students from KIPP Ilumniar Academy raise their hands to ask questions from panelists during a visit to Emerson College LA. Photo/Daryl Paranada

At that revelation, the fourth graders gasped and oohed. In addition to fun questions about Harry Potter and quidditch, students also asked questions about life at Emerson and getting into college.

“You definitely want to get good grades and make sure you are well rounded,” said Sugar. 

Asking Emersonians questions was the most enjoyable part of the day for Zoey Lopez, an aspiring dancer.

“Dancing is a part of me that I love and have fun with,” said Lopez, who is a member of a dance crew.

Being able to relate to kids such as Lopez was one of the reasons that Finn volunteered to speak on the panel.

“I can reach out to kids because I’m still a kid at heart,” said Finn. “I can connect with them.”

Maricela Inguanzo with her daughter, Ximena. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Maricela Inguanzo, Ximena’s mother, was in the audience listening to the children and panelists speak. Inguanzo said she likes that the students at KIPP Iluminar go on college field trips because it encourages them to attend college one day.

“I’m very proud of Ximena. She writes stories with a lot of details,” said Inguanzo. “I would like it if she attended college and one day published one of her stories.”

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