What could be neater for 12-year-olds than spending the morning at the University of Utah with college student pals?

Spending the morning with U. athletes like basketball star Britton Johnsen and quarterback Darnell Arceneaux.That's what 2,000 sixth-graders from 17 area Title I schools did Thursday.

Greeted by a "6th-Graders Rule" banner, the students filed into the Huntsman Center to cheer for schools, hear from the athletes and local TV weatherman Mark Eubank and watch mascot Swoop put on a show. The power rally caps the U.'s Project Youth activities.

"This is where dreams begin," said U. defensive back David Richards. "It's very important at this time in your life that you set goals. The one thing that no one can take away from you is education."

Students from the Granite, Jordan, Murray and Salt Lake City school districts were invited to the Project Youth event, sponsored by the U.'s Bennion Center, which offers students leadership opportunities via community service.

Project Youth encourages children to pursue their dreams and higher education.

"A lot of children from Title I schools are not encouraged to do that from parents or other role models," said Teri Cisneros, Bennion Center staff member. "Hopefully, in getting there here on campus will help them see what college can offer them."

Title I schools are those in low-income areas receiving federal funding to help even the playing field.

Before the rally, some 350 U. student volunteers led the children on a campus tour, complete with pictures of the artificial heart developed by U. researchers and presentations such as science experiments and interactive theater performances.

"I think it's really good," said Russ Ferrin, a sixth-grade teacher at Salt Lake's Lincoln Elementary. "For some kids, it exposes them to a lot of different items."