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Club ASU lays groundwork for future Sun Devils

November 08, 2007

Don’t look now, but a fifth ASU campus has been born.

This one is in Turlock, Calif., and it’s located on the campus of the San Joaquin Valley city’s Wakefield Elementary School.

There are at least 25 rabid Sun Devils at Wakefield Elementary, who are in Rick Avila’s sixth-grade class.

All of Avila’s students have ASU T-shirts, thanks to Club ASU, which they wear every Wednesday (“College Day” at Wakefield), and there’s an ASU banner on the classroom door. The students also have learned the ASU fight song, which they also sing on Wednesdays.

Why ASU in Turlock, Calif.? And how did this happen?

Avila says that Wakefield is a K-6 school, where about 80 percent of the 650 students are Hispanic.

“As a school, we have adopted the idea that all students should have the opportunity to go to college,” Avila says. “Each classroom has adopted a different university, and we selected ASU.”

Wakefield’s principal, Jessie Ceja, created a letter that each classroom sent to the university of its choice, asking if the school would like to be “adopted.”

Avila found Club ASU when he was searching ASU’s Web site, and he contacted Lambert Yazzie, a program coordinator for Club ASU.

The deal was sealed, and Yazzie sent the ASU shirts to Avila’s class.

Wakefield teachers use the “Character Counts!” pillars to drive student behavior, Avila says, adding: “We are also in the process of becoming a ‘No Excuses University.’ ”

(“Character Counts!” is a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that promotes the “Six Pillars of Character.” They are: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The “No Excuses University” is a network of schools where administrators are committed to “coaxing remarkable academic success from every student.”)

Though Avila’s students are seeped in maroon and gold, only two have ever set foot on the ASU campus.

“One visited on a vacation with his family, and another on a cross-country trucking trip with his father,” Avila says.
When the ASU T-shirts arrived at Wakefield and Avila passed them out, there was one common sentiment among the hopefully future Sun Devils.

“Boy were the students excited,” Avila says.

So why did ASU stand out, out of all the universities in the United States?

One of Avila’s closest friends was transferred to Mesa, and Avila and his wife visited him last fall.

“During our visit, I became interested in ASU,” Avila says. “And when we began to select colleges by lottery, ASU was still available, and I thought that you would be a great choice – Sparky, the great athletic department, all the choices you have on campus and the fact that you have multiple campuses for diversity.

“And by the way, way to go, ASU football. My class is really following the team this year, and they are always asking where they can see the games on TV.”