Rivalry Day.

As other children wait in line, McKinley Elementary School second grader Dalila de la Torre, 7, touches University of Southern California's mascot horse, Traveler, with Hector Aguilar as Tommy Trojan, during the school's annual Rivalry Day in Burbank on Wednesday, November 23, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

On Rivalry Day at McKinley Elementary School Wednesday, students got to pick a team: USC or UCLA.

Wearing the colors and stickers of their choice, students competed in football relay games and were able to pet USC’s equine mascot, Traveler, whose owner is Burbank resident Joanne Asman.

The annual Rivalry Day — part of the school’s November College Month activities — was established to get kids thinking about college.

One second-grader flaunted her shirt sleeve that read “USC” to teacher Carol Derry, but the UCLA fan waved it off.

“She’s been showing it to me all day,” Derry said.

Rivalry Day has evolved into a major event compared to the parent-teacher meeting six years ago that was used to discuss methods for inspiring McKinley’s under-achieving students. One of those parents was Suzanne Weerts.

“One of the things that we determined in the meeting was that a lot of kids aren’t getting the message at home about what it takes to do well in life,” she said. “And they’re not hearing about college at home, so maybe we need to start telling them about it at school.”

That year, the school displayed college pennants in a glass case in the hallway. What followed was “College Day,” with students crafting their own pennants.

Students also raised funds to give college scholarships to high school seniors who were McKinley alumni. Eventually, November became “College Month” and a fifth-grade field trip to UCLA became an annual outing.

“There are a lot of kids that don’t really think about college, and to see a campus like UCLA right in their backyard when they’re that young, it becomes a reality for them,” said Jenny Harris, whose sons are in the first and second grades at McKinley.

“I chose USC because my mom went there and my sister goes there too,” said second-grader Evelyn Bresee as she waited in line to pet Traveler.

Fifth-grader Heidi Garayoa sided with UCLA.

“They have over 980 clubs,” she said, recalling her recent tour. “In the UCLA library, there’s over 200,000 books. And you can sleep there.”
 

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News