Middle school students prepare for college Seminar designed to aim youngsters in right direction

March 17, 1996|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

On a Saturday morning that would have been perfect for watching cartoons or playing outdoors, 200 students from Baltimore City middle schools flocked to a five-hour seminar yesterday on the mechanics of preparing for college.

The program, offered at Coppin State College, was designed to help African-American children overcome barriers that prevent many from going to college. It was a primer on what it takes to get ready, and how to succeed once they get there.

Students heard about finding colleges that meet their needs, courses that will make them attractive college candidates and ways to start thinking about careers. Their parents heard about forms and deadlines for scholarships and loans.

But most of all, they all heard about developing the mind-set that college is achieveable, despite the stereotyped notion that children from inner city schools don't succeed.

"Don't tell me what you can't do based on what school you went to," Traki Taylor, a graduate of Lake Clifton Eastern High School, told a gathering of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

Ms. Taylor, who is pursuing a doctorate in educational administration at the University of Illinois, urged them to tackle the most advanced math and science courses they could handle and to attempt at least one foreign language.

"Foreign languages are important no matter what area you go into," she said. "The more language you take, the more marketable you are."

The program, called Entering the College Zone, was organized by the National Black Child Development Institute and sponsored by Kraft Foods Inc. It was the first venue for a road show that will go to Detroit, St. Louis, Newark, N.J., Chicago and Washington.

Sherry Deane, deputy director of the Washington-based institute, said many students get the idea they can't succeed because they are tracked in low-achieving groups early in their school careers. She said the organization wants to encourage middle school children to surpass other people's expectations of them, partly by focusing on college years ahead of time.

"Less than 12 percent of African-American men and women are in executive or professional positions," she said. "We are responding to the barriers. We believe we need to respond earlier and earlier. In high school, it's too late to begin the preparation for success."

"With a lot of our families in poverty, we often assume that it's not achievable," she said. "Families should not see their low income as barriers to getting a college education."

Philip Manzie, an employee of the state Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation, demonstrated how to use a computer program called Visions Plus. The program explains what it means to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, and students find colleges that specialize in different fields.

Calvin Carroll III, a sixth-grader who was firing questions and answers throughout the session, said he attended the seminar "to see what kind of college I wanted to go to, and to see what I should major in."

The 11-year-old, who attends Booker T. Washington Middle School, said he wanted to study computer programming and law.

Asked if his mother urged him to attend, Calvin said she didn't have to. "She only had to ask," he said.

Mary Walker, the mother of boys in the fifth and sixth grades, said she had a specific goal in taking her sons to Coppin yesterday.

"I wanted to give the kids a positive attitude about college."

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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