Youths of color get chance to visit colleges

INSPIRATION VACATION: Student participants in last year’s College Exploration Trip stand in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo from 2017 College Exploration Trip GoFundMe page
INSPIRATION VACATION: Student participants in last year’s College Exploration Trip stand in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo from 2017 College Exploration Trip GoFundMe page

Higher education can be an achievable dream for all students, no matter their background. That’s the message behind a local effort to brighten the futures of disadvantaged youth.

On Sunday, Aug. 13, 40 Asheville-area high school students and their parents will depart for a six-day tour of Northeastern colleges and universities as the 2017 College Exploration Trip hits the road. Launching the program through Positive Changes Youth Ministries in 2016, Dewana Little saw a need in the community to foster academic empowerment, specifically promoting post-high school education for minority students from low-wealth communities.

Often, college tours hosted by high schools only include large, public institutions that are within a few hours’ drive. Instead, the College Exploration Trip will visit schools up the Atlantic seaboard such as New York University and the University of Pennsylvania along with elite private schools such as Yale and The Juilliard School. Students will also tour a number of historically black colleges and universities.

“The purpose of this trip is to give youth who would not otherwise have the opportunity to explore institutions of higher education access to all of the potential that these institutions hold and the historical reference and recreational benefits of the surrounding cities and town,” Little states on the trip’s GoFundMe page.

The impact is clear from the results of the 2016 trip, which explored 15 schools between Maryland and South Carolina. All 16 of the participating seniors graduated from high school, and nine were accepted to colleges or universities visited on the tour. The trip was inspiring enough to reach some of the adult members, as four of them subsequently began or continued their own studies.

Social media play an important part in garnering financial support for the program. As of Aug. 1, the campaign had raised $1,575 of its $30,000 goal from public contributions in its first two months. Community members left supportive comments on the campaign page such as, “I totally support these youth seeing colleges … it could change their life!” and “This is such an amazing program! I applaud you for doing this, so direct and meaningful, and excellent results!”

Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, a contributor to the campaign, tells Xpress, “This is a great opportunity for both the students as well as the colleges which are trying to attract students of color.”

Little says all students who apply for the program are considered, with family income level taken into account. Though the trip can only accommodate 30-40 students, Little believes in the importance of the “Each One Teach One” effect. The idea is that those who take part in the trip are likely to share their experiences with their peers and friends, creating a ripple of influence, further “changing mindsets by broadening horizons through exposure to opportunities that foster new possibilities,” Little says.

To support the 2017 College Exploration Trip, visit www.gofundme.com/PositiveChanges2017.

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