James Gause, a senior at Calvert Hall, went shopping yesterday for a college business administration program.
Gause had a specific goal in mind, but if any of the other 4,000 area high school students attending the black college fair at Festival Hall were less certain, there was plenty of expert guidance available.
The day-long college fair featured 46 booths staffed with representatives from schools throughout the United States.
The event was sponsored by Maxwell House Coffee, the company owned by conglomerate Phillip Morris, and is the first leg of a caravan of college fairs for black high school students in large urban areas such as Washington, D.C.; Newark; Chicago; and Detroit. The concept was started in 1984 and this is the fifth year a black college fair has operated locally.
Maxwell House has given $20,000 to the Baltimore school system for scholarships for five students who select a college from the fair.
"This is providing an opportunity for young people to get a myriad of the opportunities available to them," said Carver A. Portlock, a recruiting official from Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla.
"This is a shopping list of curriculums and career opportunities and it will show various unique things that we offer that they don't get in guidance offices."
Portlock and other college counselors emphasized the importance of luring black students to historically black institutions for reasons of tradition and as a way to avoid academic racism that they claim exists at predominantly white institutions.
"Historically, black colleges and universities ar the backbone of our educational process -- they are a nurturing environment. Many of these kids are the children of parents who went through the civil rights movement and they feel a need to send their children to historically black colleges," said Suzanne Wilson, assistant director of admissions at Spelman College in Atlanta.
Spelman enrolls 1,650 students and is a private institution that attracted national publicity two years ago when actor Bill Cosby pledged $20 million to its endowment.
The Spelman and Morgan State University booths were popular choices of the students, most of whom wanted answers about enrollments, admissions requirements, scholarships and financial aid.
"Things are just so bad these days with drugs an violence that these kids want to go back to school to better themselves and do something with their lives," said Denelle Jones, of Wilberforce University, in Wilberforce, Ohio, near Dayton.
James Woods, guidance counselor at Forest Park High School, brought three busloads of junior and senior math and science students to the fair and stood by the door marveling at the academic shopping spree.
"This certainly is going to help the youngsters in their quest to attend colleges," Woods said. "It will give them an indoctrination about what is offered in the black colleges."