Every so often, Carol and I take a trip to a college with a bunch of students from Ridgeland Hardeeville High School in Jasper County South Carolina. Sometimes, we arrange for the trip ourselves and take our Jasper Gentlemen and Diamonds and Pearls. These are the two groups of young ladies and gentlemen that we work with during the year.
In some other instances, the trip is arranged through the guidance department or in past years, by the Gear Up program or other in school organizations. This time the trip was in the hands of the guidance department. They are exceptionally organized. The 44 students that we took were all seniors and some of them were in the groups that we work with.
The counselors, and there are three, have an itinerary that they distribute to all of the students. This document is extremely specific about times and places. The reason things were that way is because we visited three schools. Carol and I had trouble believing that we would actually visit three schools in one day having arrived at the first school and 9:30.As I looked at the itinerary, I was concerned that I would not even make it to the second school, much less the third one.
We arrived at Claflin University on time. Our bus driver, Mr. Washington was a pro at getting us to places on time and with little effort. Claflin is a private historically black university with a beautiful campus and a long history of successful graduates. If stability has any part in the success of an organization, Claflin has it. The President, a Dr. Tisdale, has been there for 34 years.
We were greeted by an interesting woman from the admissions office. She was to present to us, the process for admission and student life. Carol and I have seen well over 100 presentations at colleges and universities. We have never seen a presentation such as this. Ms. Payton was clearly expert at getting the attention of young people. Each point that she made was accompanied by gyrations, laughter emotion, dance steps and questions for her audience. The students were entranced by her.
They probably learned more in that 30 minute presentation about scholarship possibilities, student life and how to succeed in college, than they had known, or maybe will know from anyone else. She was at the same time loving, contrary, accusatory, accepting and many more emotions. Frankly, I was out of breath when she finished.
She then surprised us again, but telling us that she was going to be our tour guide for a while, until her Ambassadors (student guides) got out of their morning classes. That is exactly what happened. The guides were informative and supportive. One of them was a former student from Ridgeland Hardeeville High School. He knew many of the seniors from his time there and in the community. It was an advantage.
South Carolina State University is next door to Claflin. It is about twice Claflin’s size. It is the only historically black state college in South Carolina. We pulled up near the fine arts building. I was happy that we waited a while before the tour. I had texted some of our Jasper Gentlemen from last year. They both appeared at our gathering. It was so great to see them.
I believe, from what they said that they are both doing well. One of them is also involved in creating a new line of sports clothing. I never knew that when he was in high school. The other young man, Jamar, was particularly close to me. He was undecided about going to college until the last part of his high school career. His entrance in SC State was a wonderful accomplishment.
I asked him if he could speak to some of our gents who were worried about getting in to college and succeeding there. Jamar pointed about working hard, getting tutoring if you needed it, and going to class. He also said that you should get out of your room, make new friends, and get used to how things worked. You cannot imagine how proud I am of Jamar.
Our tour of South Carolina State University was long and warm. By that time, the sun was out in full force. I was wearing a sport jacket and Carol had a warm jacket on. It was kind of chilly in the morning, when we got up. Now it was in the middle 70’s and we began to roast. The student guides were very informative and took us to a number of the dorms. Our group was very interested in how things worked. They found out about ID cards and how they worked along with the cash in your account to get meals or snacks. The student union was also a highlight of both schools.
By the time we finished with SC State, we were all ready to eat. We pulled up on the side of a Saxby’s (Southerners will know this place) and a Burger King. Most of the students had money to buy, but if they did not, someone gave them some. It was the first relaxation of the day, other than the bus ride.
We gobbled up our lunch and headed over to the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. Although we are very close to the Technical College here in Beaufort-Jasper County, we have not visited or had a tour. These folks at OC are really up on things. The presentations that we heard in the various areas were sparkling. Carol and I decided that these people could sell ice to the Inuit.
The various programs that we saw were forensics, computer technology, welding and robotics. Frankly, I would have loved to take the computer technology course myself. The instructors were very clear about the chances of getting jobs with the many certificates that you could come out of a two year course.
The school has memorandums of understanding with four year schools in the area. Their explanations of the programs were complete and understandable. They were right on target.
We left OC technical college with some hope that our students got as much out of it as they could. Some have even applied online already. Will follow their progress when we meet individually.