Parents, have you ever wondered what your teenage son or daughter would do if given the opportunity to attend a college fair alone without your expert parental guidance? Would they be able to handle their business? Or, would they “chill” out and just goof off?
Last Saturday, my wife and I took 15 teenagers (without their parents) to the 30th Annual Malcolm Bernard HBCU College fair at the Riverbank State Park in New York City. This standing room only event which was hosted by the National Urban League, provided these kids with the ultimate challenge. They could either dive into their cell phones and played candy crush for four hours, or they could choose to meet with the 40 plus HBCU admission professionals, apply for the various scholarships that were available, attend workshops that focused on financial aid and obtaining scholarships, or receive an on the spot admission to their school of choice.
With these options in front of them, it was exhilarating to see these kids select the latter. But even more exhilarating was the focus and determination that I witnessed from each kid that attended. So for the readers who were unable to attend the event, I would like to give you a peek into the events as they occurred.
At 8:00am a luxury coach bus pulled into the North Haven commuter lot and we were on our way to the event. After picking up two kids from the Fairfield commuter lot, we arrived in New York City at 10:00am. Upon walking into the facility the kids were faced with a long Department of Motor Vehicles type line. But did this discourage our kids? No! Because they were briefed on the bus by one of their chaperones, Qwaliff Jackson. Qwaliff informed them that “long lines are part of the college experience, and regardless of the technological advances that we see each and every day, the college registration line is today what it was 30 years ago, long.”:
At 10:30am the doors opened and the event officially started (on time) and here is where it gets interesting. All of the cellular phones were put away and these kids hit the tables like their lives depended on it. I was a chaperone for two young men who were a bit apprehensive at first so I ran up to them and asked them which colleges they were interested in. They both pulled out detailed lists that consisted of about eight colleges each, they both asked questions about the schools that they selected, and both of them achieved their goals of visiting all of the schools on their list. Also, all of the kids attended the Q & A session that focused on the reasons why one would attend an HBCU.
When it was all over and we were back on the bus heading home, I looked back at all of the kids and I felt honored and proud to be in their presence. This feeling had nothing to do with their decision to attend the college fair. No, my feelings stemmed from the fact that if any of their parents wondered what their teenage sons or daughters did when given the opportunity to attend this college fair without their expert parental guidance, I would be able to say with confidence that these kids have what it takes to be successful, that these kids are our future engineers, lawyers, doctors and marketing executives.
That these kids didn’t goof off or chill out when given the opportunity to do so, and if asked why is it that these kids chose not to do so, I would pat each parent on their shoulder and boldly and proudly respond by saying that these kids, your kids, were too damn busy handling their business and carving out their future.