The Association of African American Student Educators (AAASE) held its second annual AAASE College Day on Saturday, in conjunction with Open House. As students and their parents packed outside the Student Senate Chambers of Witherspoon Student Center, the air was filled with excitement and shuffling of NCSU goody bags bearing the Wolfpack emblem.Among these students was Chris Wilson, a senior at Lee County High School, who wants to major in business administration and marketing. “I tried to get a feel of college and see what [NC State] has to offer,” he said. He believes AAASE can help him network with people within the African American community, as well as provide him information on applying to college. “I came here today to see what type of financial aid is available and ask people what I need to do to get into State,” he said.
Chris’s mother, who was sitting stoically by his side, had her apprehensions. “I know Chris is interested in State, but it’s really big,” she whispered out of her son’s earshot. She expressed concerns about college life in a school with so many students. “Big is sometimes good, though,” she added, “He has a lot of opportunities, and it can make him more well-rounded.” Mrs. Wilson, who was referred to AAASE College Day by a church member, expects Chris to meet friends and get a sound education regardless of what school he ultimately decides to attend.
Many of the African American and minority high school juniors and seniors who attended the event were referred to attend AAASE college day by a counselor, although the students were still undecided about attending NCSU. Michelle Harris, a senior in middle grades education, believes AAASE will provide prospective students the opportunity to see NC State in a different, more in-depth light. “Often times, a lot of students find NC State tours not as directed,” she said, “[AAASE] gives student a chance to see a student perspective and provide a more personal view than group tours.” Members of AAASE spent most of the morning shepherding students through campus, visiting various centers and setting down plans to meet college goals in the future. “I hope these students will get a very broad perspective to what college like,” Harris said. “We advise them on things like time-management, and ultimately, I hope they’ll end up here at State.”
Iwinosa Idahor, the president of AAASE and a senior in middle grades education, was excited about the good turnout. “AAASE College Day was started last year to provide minority students the opportunity to explore our campus,” she said. “AAASE is an outreach organization that serves to recruit African Americans and other minorities to college. Our goal is to prepare them for college, even if they aren’t going to N.C. State.” This year, the event included an interactive CFNC (College Foundation of North Carolina) workshop to find scholarships.
Members of AAASE also presented information sessions concerning financial aid and other options to pay for college. “We want to show these students where they can get more money for school and other resources,” said Delisa Hawkes, a freshman in history with a focus on Teacher Education. The process of searching through scholarships, loans, and grants may be overwhelming, but AAASE believes it is for the benefit of the students to attend college. Ms. Allison Mitchall, the advisor for AAASE, informed the students about her own struggle with paying for college. “I don’t feel ashamed to owe Citibank money because it is worth more to me that I have a degree” she said.
The guest speaker of the event, Mr. Brian Johnson, a coordinator for recruiting males and minorities into field of teaching, advised the potential NC State students to be aggressive to their counselors in their quest for scholarships.”Some days you just have to suck it up,” he said, “It’s a great time to be selfish. You have to go in there and say, “This is what I want, this is what I need. One thing I hate is parents speaking for their kids.” Johnson noted that in applications, he is looking for signs of leadership and stressed the importance of multiple endeavors. “Often times, students of color do not take the SAT more than once,” he said, “and across the board, regardless of race, students are not doing well in writing.” Johnson hoped that he was able to expose the high school juniors and seniors of the need to prepare for college, because in the end, “I enjoyed my experiences in college and wouldn’t change for anything in the world.”
For Shawn McNeill, a senior in Sanderson High School who had applied for State’s pre-health program and wants to be a transplant surgeon one day, college is already very real to him. He hopes this time next year to become a bona-fide student at NC State. “I just hope I get in,” he said.