Aiming High”Providing Students the Tools to Excel” is the title of one of our feature stories, but it could be the title of both features, which detail programs that are preparing African American students for college. The Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) prepares students to take on math, science and engineering in hopes that the early exposure will encourage them to tackle these subjects on the college level, and subsequently, pursue careers in the sciences. The second article documents Lane Community College’s Rites of Passage program, which aims to better connect the students with their heritage, communities and to college.
The DAPCEP students for the most part live in the Detroit metropolitan area where the Black population is approximately 40 percent. By contrast, the Rites of Passage students live in and around Eugene, Ore., where the Black population is less than 2 percent. Yet all of the students benefit from the different types of exposure.
And although the DAPCEP students are likely to see people who look like them everyday on the streets of Detroit, many don’t know a Black physician or Black engineer personally to emulate or to use as a role model. The Oregon students do not have the benefit of coming in contact with many people who look like them, much less any Black professionals, which is why Greg Evans founded the program six years ago. One of the program’s counselors said that some of the Black students are afraid of other Blacks because of the images promoted by the media and their White peers. These students are suffering from underexposure, not only to college and career options but to Black culture.
The DAPCEP students and the Passage students are from markedly different environments yet the programs are trying to steer the students on a path that is more similar than different, which is to excel in whatever they choose to do. The programs’ officials realize that without these programs, the students may be lacking the tools to make educated decisions about their future.
DAPCEP student Denita Gregory says she knew about doctors but not biomedical engineers, a career she now thinks she’d like to pursue. And after reading about American inventors, Rites of Passage student Eli Cole was surprised to learn that many of the inventors in this country were Black. Lane Community College has since established Rites of Passage Academies for Asian, Latino and American Indian students.
Exposing today’s youth early on is the key. Waiting until high school to discuss college and career options with students is often too late. Two years ago, DAPCEP even started working with kindergarten students in an effort to reach younger students.
There are countless pre-college programs available to all students, not just students of color, prepping them for a variety of careers — engineering, medicine, business, journalism. And there are programs similar to Rites of Passage, intervention programs as they are often called, targeting “at-risk” youth. The programs we featured are two more examples of programs providing African American students the tools to aim high. Hilary Hurd
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