College, career fair prepares students for big decisions

 
 
Posted8/24/2016 12:49 PM
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  • Glenbard South High School will host the DuPage County NAACP's sixth annual College and Career Readiness Fair, where students and their parents can meet with college and corporate recruiters. About 1,200 people attended last year.

    Glenbard South High School will host the DuPage County NAACP's sixth annual College and Career Readiness Fair, where students and their parents can meet with college and corporate recruiters. About 1,200 people attended last year. Courtesy of Michael Henderson

College freshman Tavis Reed keeps his focus right where it should be: Academics, not his tuition bill.

He already knows his major -- chemical engineering -- and has settled into his dorm at Washington University in St. Louis. The Oswego native doesn't sound stressed about the new chapter. Instead, he's relieved he doesn't face the financial pressures of his peers.

Reed has earned a full-tuition scholarship to the private school.

"I know I'm taken care of," says the alum of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora.

Reed, 18, says he got the tools to write his scholarship essays during the College and Career Readiness Fair hosted by the DuPage County NAACP.

The sixth annual event -- open to students of any age and their parents -- returns Saturday, Aug. 27, to Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn. Mostly high school juniors and seniors attend the fair, where they can meet with college and corporate recruiters and feel empowered about an overwhelming number of choices.

"It really teaches students to advocate for themselves," says David Larson, superintendent of Glenbard High School District 87, one of the fair's sponsors.

That means students should come prepared to network, ask questions and make contacts. Two students who visited a previous fair were savvy enough to bring their resumes. That opened the door to an offer from a university for scholarship spots, says Maria Curry-Nkansah, fair co-chairwoman.

While that doesn't happen often and caught organizers by surprise, the fair reminds students that they should take ownership of their college -- and summer internship -- applications.

"The message that we want to get across to students is that if they put in the hard work, they will get substantial, positive returns for that effort," says Curry-Nkansah, an Indian Prairie District 204 school board member.

Attending the free event is an efficient timesaver for families who may be unable to travel to multiple campuses.

"Here, they're coming to you," Larson says of recruiters.

Indeed, representatives from 31 organizations are expected to attend the fair, including 15 colleges and universities. Among them are Northwestern University, United States Military Academy at West Point and Florida A&M University.

Scholarship managers from groups such as the United Negro College Fund and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation will lead a popular workshop starting at 8:30 a.m. in Glenbard South's auditorium.

Students also will hear from current college students and companies about how to make the most of a summer internship.

"The parents are very excited about the depth of information that they walk away with," Curry-Nkansah said.

Reed attended the fair twice, as an incoming junior and senior "financially conscious" about the costs of college. He left with advice he used to compile about two dozen scholarship applications.

Reed would receive funding for his meals, books and other expenses -- on top of the university scholarship. He encourages students heading to the fair to take plenty of notes, and families to split up to visit as many workshops as possible.

"That really eased me into thinking about college," he said.

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