By Dianne Anderson
Stay calm as your grown up kids get ready to make the best move of their lives.
That’s the advice education advocates are giving parents for students on path to college, which can be just as stressful as seeing them off to their first day of kindergarten.
In the weeks ahead, one popular question the kids will likely ask their parents is for their social security numbers.
It’s not a hack and it’s not a scam. It’s all part of the process of getting free money, grants and scholarships.
“When your kid comes to you — because it happened to me — and says mom, ‘I need your social security number,’ everybody freaks out,” said Gwen Dowdy-Rodgers, a San Bernardino City Unified School District board member.
Dowdy-Rodgers said it is up to the parents to be proactive to help their kids get to college. She said the district has reached out to make parents aware that colleges need some personal information so high school students can get to the next level to access free money, grants, scholarships
Giving out that kind of information often raises a red flag, especially in the African American and Latino culture, but she said that it is required to complete the financial aid application.
On Tuesday, September 19, recruiters from Historically Black Colleges and Universities Recruitment Fair are headed to Cajon High School, where some students will get accepted into colleges and universities on the spot with full scholarships.
She said that the opportunity is huge for local kids.
The event will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Students will come from all high schools in the district, with additional buses authorized if there is any overflow.
The HBCU recruiting fair first came to the area three years ago. Because of that event, her eldest son, and his friend were both accepted and now attend an HBCU. Her son, in his junior year, is majoring in economics at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Recruiters are also making the rounds at other high schools, and in Los Angeles. She said the district is trying to get more regional schools on board so the HBCU fair will be motivated to come back annually to outreach.
For many kids, the HBCU fair opens up a whole new world. Some will get multiple acceptances without their parents having to pay the cost of admission. All fees are waived, including application and testing fees.
“Our parents just need to know that their kids can go. They can get on the bus, or you can drive them there. This is a don’t-miss opportunity,” she said.
Students should bring their unofficial transcripts, and two letters of reference. They should have a personal essay prepared as recruiters will be asking about their academic and professional goals.
At the last event, a large number of local scholarships were given. She said that there was a big shift in attitude when students learned they too can attend some of the nation’s foremost Black colleges.
“What I liked about it is that it boosted self-esteem. We have some borderline kids. They were like, ‘Do you mean I can go to Tuskegee’?” she said.
Charles Brown, a graduate of Cajon High School, class of 1989, said that students get a rare opportunity to speak directly with recruiters. For many kids, they will be the first in the family to attend a university.
“It’s more about educating our parents of the process. We tried to get information out earlier so stakeholders can have conversations with the parents prior to the event,” said Brown, Director of Equity and Targeted Student Achievement for San Bernardino City Unified School District.
By hosting the fair two months before similar recruitment fairs, students have ample time to prepare. Many are coming from AVID schools where kids already are in the mindset of higher learning. He said that students should know that there are other great schools besides the typical California choices, such as USC, UCLA or Cal State University system.
Other benefits are that HBCU’s do not charge out of state fees, and may waive local fees. They often offer incentives for students to attend, and have less stringent requirements to get in the door. Some schools also give students a second chance to get it together if they are slipping on their grades.
This year, he said they decided to move the fair because there is a large percentage of African American students typically graduating from Cajon.
District Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden also sent out letters to over 400 students and their parents.
“They’re trying to pump it up on what can be provided and what your child could have access to, some [received] personal phone calls,” he said.
Brown said there are many scholars in the community, and these events are helping them to make better-informed decisions. He said that many students can also get a provisional acceptance even if they have not taken the SAT.
“You can go to college and there’s money out there to support our students,” he said.
For more information on HBCU’s, see http://ucangotocollege.org/