During an Oct. 28 college fair held at Carey Tercentenary AME Church, 1448 S. Homan in North Lawndale, college representatives and enrollment coaches gave out advice to students wondering what’s in store for them after high school. The event was hosted by the Loving Lawndale to Life campaign, a community-based civic engagement initiative.
Counselors focused particularly on the federal loan process. The period for filling out FAFSA, the federal form that colleges use for determining financial need for scholarships and awards, started on Oct. 1.
The form does not cost anything to fill out, but is very detailed. A state agency, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, helps students plan to take the FAFSA and apply for college and financial aid. College representatives and counselors recommend that aspiring college students fill out FAFSA as soon as possible, since federal aid is limited.
JP Paulus of Do-Gooder Consulting has a program to help youth workers, counselors and ministers get up to speed on college procedures so they can help coach students, fitting this service into the context of their own work or ministry.
His advice: Don’t look for the money first, look for a college that has what you want. Say you want to learn how to open your own restaurant — Kennedy-King College has both culinary and business courses, he said. Think about whether you want to go away to college. If you have negative influences or distractions in your home, you might be more successful leaving town for college, even if it costs more.
Consider all college costs, such as tuition, room and board, travel, books and supplies, and miscellaneous things like shampoo and soap, among other expenses, Paulus added. Some colleges offer a pay-in-advance plan if you know you want to go to that particular school.
If you have to get a loan, first use federal money and then consider institution loan funds. Private loans should be a last resort and never get into payday loans, he said.
Other college experts on hand included Austin resident Steveon B. Drisdell, a coordinator for PATH Upward Bound Math & Science programs with Trio, Introspect Youth Services Inc., 430 N. Cicero. The nonprofit group offers mentorship, college and business tours especially for low-income, first-generation minority students up to age 24 in Austin and western suburbs in Proviso Township.
One Introspect grad, Charles Anderson, was named EPCJ principal of the year for his work at Michelle Clark H.S., Drisdell said.
“I see 140 kids as mentees,” said Drisdell. “I go and sit in classes with them to see what they’re facing in life these days. I tell them, I’m here for you, but I expect them to make sacrifices to get ahead. My mom made sacrifices to send us to St. Agatha. From there we had to pick up the torch, get good grades and go to college. If you get good grades, you can get a scholarship.”
A flyer that was being passed around from the Illinois Student Assistance Commissoin gives four points for students to remember: Be a pain: let everyone, including your family, teachers, and church, know you want to go to school and ask for help. Push yourself: keep your grades and knowledge up and it will be easier to get into college. Find the colleges that best fit you and your career goals. And nail down the tests and forms you must take to get a scholarships and financial aid.
The college fair, organized by community consultant Valerie Leonard and hosted by Crystal Overton, wrapped up a series of Loving Lawndale to Life programs which began in July. The Loving campaign was supported by a $2,500 grant obtained through Act-Up with the WestSide Branch NAACP. It grew out of the On the Table discussions, which Chicago Community Trusts sponsors every year.