LAPLACE – A new partnership with Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana presents students at East St. John High School with new possibilities for the future.
Last week, 15 students selected to participate in the Summer College Tour boarded a bus and toured three northern Louisiana universities. Volunteers of America covered all expenses for the two-day educational trip, which was intended to provide young people with much-needed exposure to higher education opportunities.
The traveling students ranged from sophomores to recent graduates. According to East St. John’s vice-principal, J. Vincent Brown, the students were chosen based on a variety of criteria.
“We’ve had students who perform above grade level expectations, students who haven’t yet decided on their interests after high school, and students who are interested in college but didn’t know what colleges have to offer,” Brown said.
Keisha Smith, an East St. John business professor and trip organizer/coach, said visiting the college opened up a world of possibilities for students who don’t often venture outside the area.
“Students aren’t really exposed to other colleges except for the ones here, like LSU, Southeastern, Nicholls, Southern. We wanted to bring them up north to show them that there are other schools they can go to in Louisiana, not that far from home, and that they still have great opportunities,” Smith said.
The Summer College Tour kicked off Wednesday, July 20 with visits to Grambling State University and LA Tech. After a night in a hotel, the students had an early breakfast before boarding the bus to Northwestern State University. Later that evening, they returned home to St. John’s Parish, filled with inspiration and goals for the future.
According to Smith, students were especially intrigued by the aviation and engineering programs featured on the Louisiana Tech tour.
Rising junior Jahkira Fontenberry was excited to explore academic opportunities at universities in northern Louisiana. As an aspiring healthcare worker, she wanted to learn more about Grambling State University’s stellar nursing program.
“I was excited to go because I’m about to graduate not this year, but next year. I thought this would be a good resource to start looking into colleges now, before my 11th grade,” she said.
The partnership with Volunteers of America also includes a mentorship program that will continue through the school year. According to Brown, the intent is to help students find pathways to college while using skills and coping mechanisms to address issues affecting teenage lives.
John Sillars, vice president of resources and marketing for Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana, said the program provides students with guidance on making good, healthy decisions throughout their high school years. Students are encouraged to seize opportunities as they arise.
The program is offered in East St. John in addition to other schools in the Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana 16-ward service area.
Sillars views the two-day summer college tour as a wonderful opportunity for students to reflect on how they would like to spend their post-high school years.
“The college trip was a great opportunity to share with students who may not have had the chance to visit these schools,” he said.
Brown looks forward to the continuation of the program.
“As we continue to try to strengthen our academics in East St. John and expose students in the parish to college and some of the other choices that are out there, it is very important that we continue to give them opportunities for this exhibition” he said. “We are indebted to Melissa Haley and the Volunteers of America for choosing us to participate in this program. This is the first time that an undertaking like this has been carried out. »
Smith said a second college tour was planned, possibly for September. While the last tour focused on northern Louisiana, the next trip will expand beyond state lines.
“We’re going to try to go to Mississippi and show them other schools like Belhaven, Jackson State, Alcorn that aren’t that far away,” Smith said. “It gives them the opportunity to see that they can get out of state and still be close to home.”