Between 1999 and 2009, enrollment in post-secondary education increased by 38 percent, from 14.8 million to 20.4 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Since 1988 the percentage of Black students enrolling in post-secondary institutions rose from 9 percent to 14 percent, but the percentage of White students fell from 83 percent to 62 percent.

FAMILY VALUES —The Jones family came to the National College Fair in Pittsburgh from Cranberry. (Photo By J.L. Martello)

This year’s annual Pittsburgh National College Fair attracted approximately 10,000 students and parents from the Pittsburgh region and even more from surrounding states Ohio and West Virginia, marking one of the highest attendance records in its history. The fair featured over three hundred national and international colleges, universities, technical schools and representatives from the military.

Among those at the college fair on Feb. 9 was the Jones family made up of mother father team Stephanie Barnes-Jones and Carl Jones, their daughter Olivia Jones and son Forrest Jones. The family came to the college fair from Cranberry to find colleges meeting their children’s interests in arts management and sports management.

“We have two students who are 16 who are looking at colleges and this is a great time to see them all in one place,” said Stephanie Barnes-Jones. “We’re looking for one that will offer what we’re looking for in terms of academics, extra curricular activities, and one that fits within our budget.”

“We’re looking for a balance for them,” Carl Jones said.

Other students at the fair came with their high school classes. These included alternative education schools like Summit Academy, a free non-profit school in Akron, Ohio. For the students at this school, the college fair represented a milestone in their journey towards academic achievement.

“I wanted to talk to a bunch of different colleges and see what my choices are. I want to be a zoologist,” said Dylan Bodnair. “Where I’m at, Summit Academy, they’ve been helping me prepare for college a lot.”

Other students at the fair shared how they’ve been preparing for college. Many of their answers mirrored advice from admissions counselors to take advanced placement classes, hold leadership roles in extracurricular activities, and to take standardized tests like the SAT and ACT several times.

“I was looking for an anesthesiologist program,” said Jessica Hubbard, a junior at Stubenville High School. “I took my ACT and I take a lot of college classes. I also visit my sister’s college a lot to see what its like.”

Youngest in the group were a group of eighth grade students from Stevens K-8, an elementary school in Pittsburgh’s West End. Students from this school said the experience made college seem less daunting and encouraged them to stay focused on earning the Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program for students in the Pittsburgh Public School District.

“Our teacher wanted us to learn more about colleges and high school,” said Quintina Brown.

“We learned about nursing careers and how easy it is and how scholarships could help you. It’s not as challenging as I thought it would be,” said Zharia Mourning. “I’m keeping my grades up in hopes of getting the Promise.”

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