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'U' students meet pen pals at 12th annual K-grams Kids Fair

Mia Marino/Daily
Engineering sophomore Wajiha Ibrahin paints designs on Jada, a student from Holmes Elementary School, at the K-grams Kid's Fair at Crisler Arena on Saturday. K-Grams partners University students with local elementary school children from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit to be pen pals for the school year. At the end of each year, a fair is held at Crisler Arena for students to meet their pen pals. Buy this photo

BY LIZZY ALFS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 18, 2010

Tied-dyed shirts, a giant robot, medieval princesses and plenty of excited children swarmed Crisler Arena at the 12th annual K-grams Kids Fair last Friday.

K-grams, short for Kids Programs, is a mentoring program that pairs University students with elementary school kids from 12 schools in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit. The organization works with 10 University residence halls to partner University students with elementary students as pen pals. The Kids Fair event at the end of the school year gives pen pals the chance to meet one another.

The K-grams Kids Fair is the largest student-run volunteer event on campus. This year’s event, entitled “K-grams Through the Ages,” hosted more than 2,000 elementary and University students, parents, teachers and faculty for a day of educational and active programs.

LSA senior Haley Gire, K-grams executive director, said the main purpose of Kids Fair is to get elementary students excited about learning and attending college.

“We have all these programs in place so that there’s something they get to do that doesn’t feel like school but is still educational,” Gire said. “These are still fun activities and it means the kids don’t have to sit in their desks all day.”

Many student organizations host activities at the event that relate to the fair’s theme. This year featured a fencing demonstration for students to learn about the medieval time period as well as an alien design station, where students could draw and color aliens that represent the future.

One student community service group, Circle K, had a fortune telling booth that offered supplies for kids to make paper fortunetellers.

LSA junior Rosaline Tio, Circle K vice president, said Circle K members volunteer at Kids Fair every year because college students have the ability to serve as role models for children.

“This opportunity the kids have to connect personally with a college student will influence their future goals and is something they will always remember for the rest of their lives,” Tio said. “Kids remember so many things that we don’t think are important.”

Gire said K-grams members and the nine K-grams directors work on planning Kids Fair for almost an entire year. Preparation includes brainstorming theme ideas, recruiting college pen pals and hosting fundraisers. University Housing, the Michigan Student Assembly, LSA Student Government and the University’s Ginsberg Center also help fund the event.

While members spent months working on this year’s fair, Gire said they won’t have much of a break before starting to organize the 2011 Kids Fair.

“We’ll start planning tomorrow for next year,” Gire said.

LSA sophomore Theresa Munaco, a K-grams leader for Mary Markley Residence Hall, said all the planning that goes into the one-day event is worth it because of the impact it has on the children.

“I know that this one day probably isn’t going to give a first grader the motivation to get straight A's until high school and then pursue a college degree, but I also know that these sorts of experiences can really influence a child to work hard in the present,” Munaco said.


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