Pandemic notwithstanding, the hoodies must go on

Fifth grader with hoodie.
Since 2016, Eastern admissions staff members have partnered with Spokane Public Schools and local-business donors to bring red and black Eagle sweatshirts — and big, beautiful smiles — to local fifth graders.


The hoodie project, started five years ago by an anonymous EWU alumnus, involves Eastern staff and students visiting regional elementary schools, handing out hooded sweatshirts and talking about the possibilities of college. This year, of course, the events had to be reimagined.

“Instead of us visiting the schools and being a part of an assembly, we did a virtual visit on Microsoft Teams with the classes and teachers, myself, Mandy Lee — our Spokane admissions advisor — and a few current EWU students,” says Crystal Medina, Eastern’s admissions events manager.

At the virtual event, Medina says she and her team talked to kids about college and fielded questions. The reward came later, during an outdoor sweatshirt-distribution event. At the pick-up, the fifth graders were not only able to claim their personal hoodie, but also pose for a photo against an EWU backdrop while standing on a patch of the university’s iconic red turf.

While the hoodies are the star attraction, project organizers say the real payoff is getting elementary students excited about the possibility of attending college. Of the lucky students selected to receive a sweatshirt, many don’t know that higher education might be an option for them. Some admit they have never heard of EWU.

“Most students are so excited about receiving their hoodies,” says Medina. “This year it was a little harder to tell, since everyone was wearing masks and social distancing. But you can still notice a smile when their eyes slightly squint.”