UofL College of Business student volunteers celebrated with students from Portland Elementary School during a pep rally to hand out warm sweatshirts -- and plenty of inspiration.

It didn’t take long for the hundreds of Portland Elementary School students pouring into the gymnasium for their special event to begin dancing excitedly to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” playing over the loudspeakers.

The children jumped, clapped and pranced to the music Oct. 28 as students, staff and faculty members from the University of Louisville College of Business Elevate Portland Initiative handed out bright red sweatshirts and high-fives.

Each shirt sported a Dr. Seuss quote on the front (“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”). On the back, each had a year: The year that child would potentially graduate from high school.

For a school filled with children whose view of the future may not go far past where their next meal will come from, the graduation goal is an integral part of the 2-year-old Elevate Portland Initiative.

“Seven, 10 years from now, we’d like to see you at the University of Louisville,” Interim COB Dean Alan Attaway told the children as they cheered.

College of Business Acting Dean Alan Attaway told the children he wants to see them at UofL someday.
College of Business Acting Dean Alan Attaway told the children he wants to see them at UofL someday.

After receiving their shirts, the children and their teachers returned to their classrooms for some donated Papa John’s pizza.

The Initiative was started last year by the College of Business Diversity Committee, which is headed by Beth Davis-Sramek, a marketing professor in the College of Business known to the Portland kids simply as “Dr. Beth.”

Told of a need for warm clothing for the children (the majority of Portland students qualify for free/reduced lunch and come from low-income, single-parent homes), the committee came up with a plan last year to provide the sweatshirts. The graduation year printed on the back adds an extra spark — inspiration. The College of Business — faculty, staff and students and others — have also donated snacks, hats, gloves and mittens to the school and provided fifth graders with computer tablets.

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“Dr. Beth” shows the students their new sweatshirts. Standing with her is Portland Principal Angela Hosch. To the right, sitting on the stage, is Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education member Diane Porter.

This year, in addition to providing the clothing and snacks, the College of Business is sending volunteers to Portland. One hundred seventy College of Business students are now working with the Portland students, providing the school with extra support.

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Janet Cappiello covers the College of Business, the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, the College of Education and Human Development, the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, Sustainability Council and military initiatives for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She has more than 30 years’ experience in journalism, including working for The Associated Press and magazines such as Vegetarian Times and Sustainability: The Journal of Record. She has been at UofL since March 2014.