Kindergartner gets jump start on college

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 21, 2004

CHESAPEAKE - The certificate held in one little boy's hand at his kindergarten graduation ceremony seemed to mirror a future image–an image of the boy transformed into a young man holding a college diploma.

Shawn Burcham, 7, won a $25,000 four-year

scholarship to pay tuition costs from the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College during a drawing at Tuesday evening's ceremonies at Chesapeake High School.

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"We like to think the graduation helps parents get in the mindset that one day they will blink their eyes and their kids will be in college, principal and Rio Grande alumnus Jack Finch said. "The kindergarten graduation is our way of saying congratulations to the children, their parents and the teachers."

Three days later, Shawn's parents, Robert and Norma Burcham, are still having trouble believing he won. Their only child celebrated his birthday in April and the scholarship is like a gift from God, Shawn's mother said.

"I think Shawn will attend college. He's always talked about being a doctor or a teacher. Since he has been in school, he's leaned more to teaching," Robert Burcham said.

Shawn's mother said her son talked about college since the tender age of four.

"One day while we were driving in the car, he told me 'Me will get a job someday to pay for college so me can help my teacher.'"

"We were so thrilled he won,"

Norma Burcham said. "Now, he has that chance to attend college and we always wanted that for him. I just wish every child could have the opportunity to go to college. Just the other day, we were discussing how everything is costing more and we were wondering if we would be able to afford college."

Shawn said he was happy he won.

"(I) want to thank the people that gave it to me," he said.

School board Vice

President Tom Curry drew Shawn's name out of 107 graduates. He has attended every graduation the past three years.

"As parents, one of our responsibilities in life is to ensure your child's future in education. To have the financial part in your pocket helps to take the pressure off," Curry said.

The Atwood scholarship's value may be about $75,000 in 12 years and is based upon academic excellence, according to Jake Bapst, director of Project CHAMP of the Ohio Appalachian Center for Higher Education and Rio Grande's director of instructional media center.

"Our goal is to to get the entire student body aware of higher education needs," he said.

Shawn’s' academic performance in upcoming years will affect his scholarship -he should maintain good grades and score accordingly on the SAT. If he does not, Rio Grande still makes efforts for him to attend college.

Rio Grande has offered scholarships since 1996 to include several other schools in Southeast Ohio and Mason County, W.Va. This is Chesapeake's third year for a kindergarten graduate to receive one. A Symmes Valley Middle School student will be selected Wednesday to receive a scholarship from the university.