Students learn about historically black colleges at recruitment fair at Laney

on September 16, 2011

On Wednesday evening, a throng of Bay Area high school students took over the student center at Laney College in downtown Oakland for the Third Annual Historically Black College Recruitment Fair, where they filled out applications and learned about different colleges.

Representatives from over 40 historically black colleges admissions offices were there to sell their colleges to the high schoolers.  Students brought their transcripts and standardized scores for recruiters to review, hoping to be considered for scholarships and on-the-spot admission to the schools.

The event was sponsored by the Oakland Unified School District, Laney College, the United Black Student Union of California and the United College Action Network (U-CAN). Founded in 1988 by Alan Rowe and his wife, Donna, U-CAN has worked with over 39,000 students, of whom over 12,000 have gotten into historically black colleges. More than $39.5 million in scholarship money has been awarded to students who have received U-CAN services. “We reach young people, whether they’re a 4.0 student or 0.9 student and we tell them you can go to college and we will get you into college,” said Alan Rowe as he attended Wednesday’s event.

“We brought about 20 students here today,” said Shannon Gaggero, college advisor for BUILD, a group that helps students start their own businesses. Gaggero said that by the end of the day, three-quarters of the group she’d brought to the fair  had been admitted to a college.

Currently serving over 300,00 graduates and undergraduates, historically black colleges were originally founded to educate freed slaves. There are 105 such campuses scattered throughout the United States, and the majority are in the southeastern states. Notables including Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first black Supreme Court Justice, Oprah Winfrey and Martin Luther King, Jr. attended historically black colleges.

As students filled out their applications, they got a history lesson about each of the schools. “The history of The Bethune-Cookman is very powerful,” said Malik Dajuste, a recruiter for Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida telling students that founder and educator Mary McLeod Bethune started the school with only $1.50.

Angus Bates, a junior at Oakland High School, said heritage is one of the reasons he wants to attend Morehouse College, an all men’s school in Atlanta, Georgia. “I want to go to Morehouse or Howard,” he said.  “A lot of my family has attended Morehouse and Spelman College,” a women’s liberal arts school also in Atlanta.  “It’s a tradition,” he added.

Over the years, the college fair has grown tremendously; the first one was held in Sacramento with only five schools.  Although this is the third year the OUSD has participated in this college fair, U-CAN has been hosting the event for 12 years.

“Black colleges offer our kids not only need options and opportunities,” said Alan Rowe. “They need to be in an environment where people care and they will cultivate and allow them to grow into who they really are.”

For some students, that’s exactly why they came to the college fair. “I’ve been on several tours,” said Jalen Preston, 17, senior at Oakland School for the Arts.  “It’s just the environment of an HBCU, there’s nothing like it. It’s somewhere I would love to be.”

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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