Sofia and Wallace

Sofia Alvarez Perez cuddles the Boston University mascot while she works on math at Green Acres School on Sept. 23. Her second-grade class has adopted the university as their own and wear Boston University themed clothing on Fridays.

AUDREY GOMEZ/Lebanon Express

When Heather Bergstedt’s second-grade class goes out to recess, the dog stays in the classroom.

“He sleeps and rests,” said second-grader Sofia Alvarez Perez. Friday was Sofia’s turn to take care of Wallace, the stuffed toy dog of Boston University’s mascot.

The class received the dog, a flag and some other items compliments of Boston University President Robert A. Brown.

The dog’s official name is Rhett in Boston, but the class at Green Acres School calls him Wallace after Bergstedt’s Boston Terrier.

Green Acres is one of the Lebanon Community School District’s elementary schools gearing up to participate in No Excuses University.

NEU is a network of schools across the United States that emphasize and promote the importance of college readiness for all children.

“My staff wanted to jump into NEU,” Green Acres Principal Boon Setser said.

More teachers are eager to participate. Setser said he plans to take another group of teachers to an NEU conference this year.

Damen Lopez co-founded the NEU Network, part of TurnAround Consulting LLC in 2006. Since then, over 70 schools are listed on their network of schools.

Schools must apply to participate in the network, and member schools are re-evaluated annually.

Among the requirements are questions that address the school’s culture of universal achievement and commitment to collaboration.

There is also a requirement that schools demonstrate powerful college readiness symbolism that is displayed throughout campus.

Green Acres is up for the challenge.

The hall is lined with flags for different colleges at each classroom entrance.

Teachers contacted universities throughout the United States and received flags, T-shirts, and other gear emblazoned with university emblems.

The kids and staff get to participate individually too.

Fridays are college days. Everyone at Green Acres is encouraged to wear the colors of their classroom college, or college shirts if they have them.

“It gives a great sense of community and team when our class is the Boston Terriers,” Bergstedt said.

Setser said it is important that kids feel a part of their community at school.

“Students realize that they are part of a team,” Setser said. “If you’re not in the class, you’re letting your team down.”

In Bergstedt’s class, each student has a turn to take care of Wallace and they take that job seriously.

Before leaving the classroom, Sofia put Wallace in his small cardboard bed.

The other students who have had a chance to care for Wallace still get excited talking about it.

“It was cool because Evan made a bed for it and he put blankets of paper for him,” said classmate Ryan Feigenspan.

“Even though Wallace is just a small stuffed dog that the kids love, it symbolizes so much more than a toy,” Bergstedt said. “I cannot wait to see how excited and motivated the kids are about college after a few years of this.”

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