Busloads of high school students crowded the Historically Black Colleges and Universities recruitment fair at Modesto Junior College. At least a handful got back on the buses with scholarships in hand. Many more had acceptance letters in the bag.
Enochs senior Shanae Askaw got a $6,500 scholarship to Virginia State University on Tuesday morning, and if she can raise her SAT score, she will get more, Askaw said. She plans on majoring in math, but said it was the VSU dance program that drew her to the midsize school south of Richmond, Va.
“I’ll also apply to other schools around here,” Askaw said, but on Tuesday she was leaning eastward. “I got to see a lot of colleges I didn’t know much about here.”
Askaw was among roughly 600 high school and MJC students making the rounds of about 30 recruiters at the fair, put on by United College Action Network, also known as U-CAN.
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“I liked being able to ask questions and get answers right away, being able to speak face to face and get their feel for their school – not over the Internet,” said Stephanie Pierce, 33, who will graduate in May from MJC with three associate degrees.
The single mother of five had different questions for recruiters than the high schoolers who packed the event. What are rents like in your area? Are there out-of-state fees? What double majors do you offer? Pierce said she has to make the most of her university time.
“I want to get in, get out, get ahead,” said Pierce, who helped set up and clean up the event with fellow MJC Black Student Union members at the Mary Stuart Rogers Center on the MJC West Campus. She discovered several schools to which she plans to apply.
U-CAN recruiter Leslie Lewis said roughly $350,000 to $400,000 in scholarships is given out at each of the fair stops, varying from small awards to full rides. Modesto’s numbers will not be known until later. The tour began in the Bay Area, then headed to Elk Grove before stopping in Modesto. Next it heads to Southern California.
“It was a good day,” said John Ervin III, program specialist with MJC Student Services, noting recruiters said they were pleased with the turnout.
“Our kids had a great time. They got great information,” said Jorge Perez with Modesto City Schools, which co-sponsored the event with the Associated Students of MJC. Perez and assistant Madie Herrera organized buses bringing 200 teens to the fair, including freshmen and sophomores.
“We brought the younger students to expose them to colleges,” Perez said. “It was a field trip that made a big difference for kids’ lives.”
“I didn’t think it’d be this big. There were good quality students – very diverse,” said Lou Marquez, recruiter for Alcorn State University in Alcorn, Miss.
“Some students definitely came prepared. I’ll process them in no time,” said Mario Clark, admissions officer for Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Students were asked to bring transcripts, a copy of college test scores, two letters of recommendation and a personal essay to apply on the spot for admission and scholarships. Those instant answers and a willingness to take lower-GPA applicants opens the field to far more students who may have thought college unreachable, said U-CAN founder Alan Rowe.
“So many kids in our communities have been told what they can’t do, what they can’t be,” Rowe said. “These colleges and universities give them hope and opportunities,” Rowe said.