Elementary school students adopt marching band to drum up their aspirations for higher education

Erin Arnold (third from right) and some of her third- and fourth-grade students watch an on-field rehearsal of the Huskie Marching Band.
Erin Arnold (third from right) and some of her third- and fourth-grade students watch an on-field rehearsal of the Huskie Marching Band.

Erin Arnold, an NIU alumna and former member of the Huskie Marching Band, has rekindled her relationship with her alma mater in hopes of inspiring children to further their education at the collegiate level.

Arnold and members of the NIU marching band have teamed to support No Excuses University, a program that promotes college readiness to students at an early age. As a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Willow Bend Elementary School in Rolling Meadows, Arnold is devoted to helping her students realize their educational potential.

“The goal of the program is to make what is a dream for some, a reality for all,” says Arnold, a 1995 alumna. “There’s an equal opportunity for everyone.”

Through No Excuses University, each classroom adopts a university of their choice. Then, teachers and students decorate their classrooms in imagery that represents the college they have selected.

“This symbolism is seen throughout the building as each classroom displays the college flag and school colors for the chosen university,” Arnold says. “The entire theme and color scheme of my classroom is that of NIU.”

A wall in Arnold's Willow Bend Elementary School classroomBeing an NIU graduate, Arnold reached out to Thomas Bough, director of the Huskie Marching Band, and arranged for her students to watch the band rehearse at Huskie Stadium.

“My class looks up to the Huskie Marching Band. They’re like rock stars to these kids,” says Arnold, who played the bass drum with the NIU marching band. “I wanted to expose my students to music and the possibilities they would have if they choose to take up an instrument.”

Arnold speaks fondly of her time performing with the drumline at NIU, a relationship that played a key role in her decision to reach out to the Huskie Marching Band.

“I loved the camaraderie, friendship and fun. They were my family while I was away from home,” Arnold says. “It truly was the best time of my life. I grew as a musician and as an adult. I cherish all of my Huskie Marching Band memories and miss that part of my life.”

Arnold is hoping her students and the Huskie Marching Band will establish a relationship as pen pals in the near future. This relationship will allow her students to ask college-related questions.

It’s exciting to hear young students talk about college, she says. “They set their goals, and they aim to reach their goals,” Arnold says. “They’re not being held back.”

by Andrew Hrubec

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