CHAMPAIGN – Victor Mullins has looked through some education statistics and doesn't like what he sees.
In January 2004, the U.S. Department of Education published "Principal Indicators of Student Academic Histories in Postsecondary Education." The report found that 91.4 percent of Asian Americans and 79.4 percent of white students entered college after high school. Hispanic students were at 70 percent, blacks at 69.5 and Native Americans at 47.2 percent. Mullins, assistant dean of the University of Illinois MBA program, hopes a local annual event goes a long way in boosting minority numbers.
About 100 high schoolers are registered to attend the second annual Making the Right Moves conference, designed to increase the college enrollment of underrepresented minority students. The conference runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday at Wohlers Hall at the University of Illinois.
Mullins knew about the educational trend several years ago when he introduced the concept for the event to officials at Centennial and Central high schools in Champaign and Urbana High School.
The counseling staffs then were in charge of getting the word out to students, who signed up during the last two weeks of May.
In many high schools, a counselor is responsible for an entire grade level of students. Mullins said with that kind of ratio, counseling staffs are often stretched beyond their means.
"It is a challenge to develop a plan of action for each student," he said. "We don't want to replace the consulting staff, but we can attract students who wouldn't normally go to the consulting staff. They look at this event as an outside-the-school experience."
During the first hour, students will hear from a group of former University of Illinois students who are now in the working world, along with UI financial aid and admissions officials. The second hour focuses on preparing for college early and avoiding bad behavior such as skipping class and talking back to teachers.
"(Teachers) are the people who are going to be writing recommendations. All those things are usually found out in the end, and when they are looking for someone to say something nice about them, they have a hard time," Mullins said.
The final hour is dedicated to the ACT. It is the unofficial kick-off for a larger 10-month pilot program, where high schoolers take a preparatory class each second Saturday of the month, starting July 10. Current University of Illinois students who scored well on the exam will help out during the free sessions, which are available for eighth- through 12th-graders. The exact location of the classes, which will take place on the UI campus, is yet to be determined, Mullins said.
At the minimum, Making the Right Moves will give high school students some advice on why they should consider college and how to get mentally prepared, Mullins said.
He believes some students don't focus on college because it isn't a topic of conversation around their household.
"Your parents never went. Every one of your cousins has graduated high school and got a job, so you don't see college as an option," Mullins said.
The program is headed by the Kappa Alpha Psi, an alumni association made up of black professionals, as well as the Kappa Alpha Kappa sorority alumni chapter.
For more information about the ACT preparatory classes, call 377-9784.
You can reach Ernst Lamothe at (217) 351-5223 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.