Contributed by Willie Lee, III
L-R: Willie Lee, Lesha Anthony-Harold, Dontae Evans, Joshlyn Gravely, Cynthia Watson
On Saturday, March 8, GOing2COLLEGEisEZ (EZ) left Booker T. Washington High School (Norfolk, VA) at 5:30 AM boarded with a bus load of approximately 40 high school students, from various schools across the Hampton Roads region, headed to Bowie State University (Bowie, MD) for one of the largest and most successfully run college expos held on the east coast, the 15th Annual Black College Expo. The Expo features over 50 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and educational organizations and programs with annual tours to Oakland, Atlanta, Los Angeles, DC/Maryland, and Houston. Its mission is to curtail the high school dropout rate and increase degree and/or certificate enrollment among underserved and underrepresented youth by: connecting students directly to HBCUs; exposing students to a sundry list of available scholarships; assisting students with college preparation and readiness; offering college acceptances and scholarships on the Spot; connecting students to career, internship, and vocational opportunities; and featuring “life changing” seminars and workshops.
This opportunity was made a success partly by the collaborative effort from start to finish by a community of organizations and individuals including: GOing2COLLEGEisEZ (EZ), Bank of Hampton Roads, Goucher College, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (Norfolk), New Life Virginia Beach, New Light Baptist Church (Virginia Beach), Randolph Macon College, University of Richmond, The BTW Foundation, The Potomac & Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling (PCACAC), The Boys and Girls Club, Booker T. Washington High School, and Never Become Bigger Than The Cause Network were some of the groups in addition to individuals who supported the effort.
“The PCACAC organization was a vital community partner and played a very major role in helping us pull the trip off. Not only did they engage their other member colleges and universities, who provided items that were used as bag stuffers, but they also encouraged us to apply for their Student Support Grant” said Willie Lee, Founder of EZ. The PCACAC Student Support Grant (SSG) Program provides financial support to its members for student projects that directly benefit students in the college transition process. “Many of the students we work with have the desire but not the necessary means to go on trips like this and with the funds provided by the SSG, we were able to offset some of our expenses and offer more students the opportunity to attend. EZ is eternally indebted to PCACAC, Mrs. Arlene Ingram, and Mrs. Lucy Neale Duke (SSG Program Committee Chair) for their generous support and assistance making a difference in the lives of students.”
Two students from Booker T. Washington High School (Norfolk, VA) actually received acceptances on the spot from several colleges and universities. Dontae Evans (Senior), was accepted into Bowie State, Norfolk State, Virginia State, and Morgan State and Joshlyn Gravley (Senior) was accepted into Virginia State, Morgan State, and Bowie State. Another BTW student, Kena Armfield- Rogers (Senior), was accepted into Virginia State pending results of her May SAT scores.
It was a very long and exhaustive day that culminated with a rewarding stop, on the return home, for dining and shopping at The Potomac Mills. “It was a very long and tiring day but just the excitement from the students gave me the energy I needed to refuel. It was an experience that I wouldn’t want to trade for anything. If only one student had gone on this trip and received one scholarship or got accepted into one school then I would’ve considered this trip a huge success”, said Lee. “The students have all expressed the value to them of experiencing an event like this again and we are making plans now to take two, three, even four busloads next year.”
"Another project driven by community asset collaboration."