Think College aimed at rural high school students
High school students in South Carolina's rural areas don't always get the same encouragement to attend college or have the same exposure to college access information as do students in metropolitan areas.
That's why the University's Office of Undergraduate Admissions is launching a new program called Think College that brings Carolina to the students' own communities.
"This started with an idea of presenting college information at Bright Light Baptist Church in Heath Springs [Lancaster County] where I grew up," said Derrick Huggins, associate vice president for transportation.
"I approached the admissions office for help, and they really liked the way the event turned out in June. Now they're talking about holding them all over the state."
The inaugural Think College session attracted 32 rising 9th through 12th graders, as well as parents and church members who encouraged the students to pursue a college education.
Head women's basketball coach Dawn Staley made an appearance, but she didn't talk sports. She reminded the students that sacrifices are often necessary to move ahead in life.
"In the past, we've visited high schools in rural areas, but this approach with Think College is a little more personal," said Tomeika Banks, coordinator for multicultural recruitment and outreach in admissions. "When students hear people from their own community talking about what it means to go to college and how it can change your life, they listen a little more, I think."
Think College's community approach allows plenty of people to get involved.
"It's refreshing to see so many people take an interest in young people's quest for higher education," said Suzanne Cruea, an admissions office staffer.
Admissions office staff members look forward to continuing their partnership with Huggins in developing this event. They plan to invite other special guest speakers from USC to participate in future Think College events, including inspirational athletic personalities, faculty, and staff.
Baseball coach Ray Tanner has committed to participating in the program this fall. Representatives from USC's TRIO Programs, which focuses on first-generation college students, will join Tanner.
"We want to track these students and perhaps do follow-up sessions with them to talk about SAT preparation, financial aid workshops, and how to prepare a college application that reflects all that they've done," Cruea said. "We've also talked about going back to some of these communities every three years to follow up on the students who were rising high school freshmen and will be rising seniors."