March Madness builds college awareness in Bonners Ferry

BONNERS FERRY — Gonzaga Bulldogs, rally and fight! Go, Gonzaga! Fight! Fight! Fight!

Students chant college fight songs, colorful university flags are plastered on the walls and decorated classrooms doors stretch down the hallways — this is the scene during March Madness at Boundary County Middle School.

“It’s madness at our school,” said Kelly Hinthorn, a teacher at Boundary County Middle School. “Students don’t remember a math or science test from their Middle School days, they remember what happened during March Madness.”

The library had more students than usual and most classrooms with a TV were switched to the Gonzaga University vs. South Dakota State University game on Thursday. Most students and teachers are cheering for Gonzaga University. But it’s not all fun and games at Boundary County Middle School when it comes to the popular NCAA basketball tournament.

Teachers take the love of college hoops and turn it into a college awareness opportunity. Fourteen homeroom classes with seventh- and eighth-grade students draw college teams that their class will represent during the tournament. Students do research on the university, which includes calling or emailing the admissions department and gathering information about tuition, university history, enrollment, location and fun facts.

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The information is then presented through classroom door decorations. Students spend two weeks organizing and creating the presentation. Community judges walk the hallways and select the winning homeroom class by overall impression, information and detail. The grand prize is a gift card to host a homeroom party.

“Our students are at a disadvantage by not being near any colleges in the community,” Hinthorn said. “Some families don’t talk or pursue college in our district and it’s our job as teachers to expose opportunities to the students.”

Eighth grader Morgan Swanson said it’s an experience she will always remember. If students aren’t into sports, they’re using tools such as robotics, music, technology and public speaking skills to create the best college presentation.

“I have learned about many colleges and what it takes to get into your dream school,” Morgan said. “We are learning, competing and having fun.”

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