Scott Redd stood in front of a group of fifth-graders, urging them to hold onto the folders he was giving them like their lives depended on it.

"The folders," which held information sheets on getting into college, "are your key to a million dollars," he said -- because college graduates are expected to make a million dollars more than high school graduates during their lifetimes.

It was the first time Bryn Mawr Community School in Minneapolis has organized such a visit to the University of Minnesota, where Redd is the coordinator of community relations in the Department of African American and African studies.

Minneapolis Public Schools organized the trip for the 50 fifth-graders, to get them to raise their sights toward college and start thinking about it early.

"Some of our students don't really see themselves as ever going to the U of M," said Cedrick Frazier, assistant director of the Office of Equity and Diversity in the district, who helped Principal Renee Montague organize the trip. "We want them to see that this is where they're supposed to go after high school."

"This" doesn't necessarily mean the U of M, though many of the kids were professing their desire to be Gophers by the end of the day. "This" means college, no matter where it is.

Throughout the day, the Bryn Mawr students heard U students talk about college life. They also talked to student advisers, took a campus tour and rode a campus bus over the Mississippi River.

"It was kind of cool to see where I'm going to go to school," said 11-year-old Reggie Markert, who said her parents are alumni of the U and think she's destined to go there, too. "You get much more independence at the U" than at Bryn Mawr, she said.

Markert said she wants to be a cartoon voice when she grows up. "But being a teacher is my backup plan."

Her classmate, 10-year-old Kajal Behnke, said that college seems like "it will be hard, but it will be fun at the same time. ... The U of M is very different from our elementary school."

Redd told the students what it takes to get into college, namely, hard work. Three-quarters of the students at Bryn Mawr come from low-income families, so Redd and others also emphasized that scholarships are available for those who don't think they can pay for college.

On a tour through Walter Library, the fifth-graders hushed each other as they passed studying college students. They yelled as they boarded a bus to cross the Washington Avenue bridge, and they ran after each other playing games on the lawn behind the Coffman Student Union.

They also elicited many a curious stare from the college students.

"This is just a road map for them on how to get to college," Redd said. "I'm glad they've got people [in the schools] helping them see themselves in college. ... It helps them understand the relevance of what they're doing now and in high school."

The taste of the college life appealed to the students.

Eleven-year-old Savoy Davis was pleasantly surprised that when he bought his lunch at the student union, he could get two pieces of pizza and a soda -- a more appetizing lunch than he normally gets at school, he said.

Davis, who said he wants to play in the NBA when he grows up, said he learned that the U "is not just about sports, it's about everything, like academics."

And that if he wants to be a student there someday, "I need to keep my grades up and do my homework."

Emily Johns • 612-673-7460