By Kurt Walker
An eager crowd lined up outside of the Royal Baptist Church Conference Center on this past Saturday in anticipation of its 2017 College Fair. Although slated to begin at 10:00am, a line was already assembled prior to the start time of folks waiting to enter. Hundreds of local students and their parents and family members were greeted by various college and community organization representatives, as well as members of the United States Armed Forces.
Latisha Vaughn-Brandon, a board member of the Royal Foundation, and also serves on its college education committee said “ the overall goal was to bring awareness to our community about the path to higher education or the military…so we want all of our children in the community to achieve their desired outcomes in life.” To assist in making this possible, folks like Ranell Prioleau were on hand. Prioleau, a recruiter for North Carolina Agriculture & Technical State University, was in search for great candidates for A&T’s programs.
“We have some great potential Aggies …a lot of people came in looking for A&T so I’m sure they will be applying and hopefully will be accepted and we will welcome them to our Aggie Family,” stated Prioleau. Among those taking advantage of the experience was Jahmaal Pearson and his son Justice. Justice, who attends North Charleston High School, utilized the fair to inquire about the offerings of the various school programs. Pearson stated it was his desire to “help my son get a head start on his education.” They were spending time at the Trident Technical College table where they met Allan Barboza, a recruiter for the school. “The Youth Apprenticeship Program is what brought me over here and I thought it would be a great program to get my son involved in,” stated Pearson.
The program provides high school juniors and seniors who are selected with financial support for books, tools or various equipment for their classes. “Not only that, they will be assigned a mentor in a particular industry…and they will get paid as well,” stated Barboza. Completion of the two-year program often results in a hiring according to Barboza. The Pearsons received some informative information regarding the particulars of the Life Scholarship Program. “He [Barboza] explained to us the Life Scholarship…how you can maintain and keep it…I knew about it but not in that particular way,” stated Justice.
Along with the schools, community organizations were present such as the Charleston Professional Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and the YMCA of Greater Charleston Y-Achievers program. Sierra Williams, President of the NSBE chapter, said that their organization was on hand to assess the interest levels and recruit students into their NSBE Junior Program. Williams stated “the NSBE Junior is one of our pre-college initiative efforts for students from grade 3 through 12 and we are assessing interest of students interested in engineering…our mission it to increase the number of black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and who will have a positive impact on the community.”
Sedric Webber, Program Coordinator, was on hand registering students for the Y-Achievers Program. The program is a college readiness program that has been in operation locally for more than 8 years. The program offers ACT prep, financial literacy workshops, college tours, and jobsite visits as part of the World of Work Tour. Webber was positive about the events turnout saying, “Today’s event was a great opportunity for us to recruit students…I think we were able to add some kids who may have not known about our program so we are very thankful for today’s event.” For those who missed the opportunity, sign-up for the Achievers is still open by contacting Webber at the Cannon Street YMCA. Several participating schools (West Ashley, North Charleston, Garrett, Burke, and Stall) will have their senior students registration fee covered through the Gear Up Program.
Students and their parents/guardians also had the opportunity to attend workshops and parent-led panels that included in the areas of financial aid, personal branding, scholarships, NCAA eligibility, and parents of children with disabilities just to name a few.