Uplift Scholars Consider College Options at Annual Fair
Hampton Preparatory senior Abisai Ayala dreams about a future in criminal justice, and he knows Sam Houston State University is the place to prepare for it. He hasn’t seen the school yet, but thanks to Uplift Education initiatives like the annual College Fair hosted by Uplift’s Road to College staff, Abisai now understands how important the college decision is.
“Before I came to Hampton, I never thought about the future. School was about sports and passing your classes. No one talked about college,” Abisai says. He spends his free time working at a fast food restaurant to make extra money. Watching the adults at the restaurant worry about supporting their families made him want a different future.
“All my teachers at Hampton are concerned about college. It makes you feel better about the decision. I first talked to people from colleges at the fair last year. It helped me believe I could go too,” he says.
Abisai and his classmate, Di’ Breika Miller, stand outside Uplift’s Summit Preparatory school a stone’s throw from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. They are waiting their turn to check out the colleges represented inside.
Like Abisai, Di’Breika relishes that she has access to the crucial guidance necessary to take this step. She came to Hampton in 8th grade and is interested in nursing and teaching. The youngest in her family, Di’Breika will be the first to pursue a four-year degree.
“Coming to the College Fair gives you that good feeling that we really can go to college. I was able to get in-depth information so that I can make my decisions about where to go,” she explains.
Every year, Uplift’s Road to College team brings in college recruiters to events like the College Fair and to visit students at their campuses. On September 11, 2012, more than 700 Uplift juniors and seniors visited with 100 college recruiters about their programs. Before each group of scholars took their turn, counselors from the Uplift’s Road to College program ran workshops about what to look for in a college.
Denise Castaneda is the Director of College Admissions in Uplift’s Road to College office and is responsible for programming these opportunities.
“Before our scholars meet the recruiters, we spend a lot of time with them preparing them for it. We’ve been pushing them to find best-fit schools, and the College Fair is a great place to meet face-to-face with recruiters,” she explains.
By the end of the training sessions, the scholars know exactly how to present themselves and to ask the pertinent questions about the various programs.
“They do a great job, asking about the financial aid process, academic programs, what services are available to first generation college students, and what student life looks like at each school,” Denise says.
And while at least half of the students aren’t yet ready to make a college decision, every one of them is prepared to start the process, whether it will take them to Sam Houston State like Abisai or to one of the hundreds of other options now available to them because of Uplift’s Path to College program.