The Urban League of Northwest Indiana held its annual scholarship fair at Indiana University Northwest (IU Northwest) on Tuesday, October 18, and to say many students' lives were changed would be an understatement. High school seniors from all over the Region came out to engage with representatives from over 50 college institutions. It was a wonderful way to inspire students and help them understand that college doesn't have to be impossible.
The Scholarship fair wasn't a typical college fair–it was a tool intended to set young students on the path to success. At the event, students could take part in financial aid and scholarship workshops to learn about different opportunities to help them afford college. They could attend a college tour to better understand what college is like. The best part of the event was that it was incredibly accessible. Dr. McCloud iterated, "Special thanks to IUN Chancellor Ken Iwama for allowing the Scholarship Fair to be held on the campus. This is the first time the fair was held on a university and it was the first time many students and parents had set foot on the campus. It was an exhilarating experience for all"
"Normally for college fairs, families and kids have to find ways to get there themselves. For this event, though, we're bringing the students directly here and then returning them to school. This is key. Often, kids won't be able to go to a college fair or open house because of those transportation issues. This helps make it more available to them," said Dr. Dorothy Frink, Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management at IU Northwest.
The Scholarship fair was a great opportunity for students to begin their college search, learn more about colleges, and start to consider their options.
"At an event like this where so many students are gathered, it really encourages them all to pursue college because they can see their friends checking out colleges, and they can look at colleges they may never have if they hadn't seen their friends looking at them. It's almost like good peer pressure," said Frink.
The students could even apply to colleges and get accepted right there on the spot. However, the event wasn't just a way for kids to start learning about different colleges. Several of the institutions were awarding scholarships to those who applied, and many kids walked away at the end of the day with thousands of dollars in scholarships.
"Just seeing these kids walk around and leave with scholarships is beautiful. We had a girl last year who was crying–no one in her family had been able to go to college, and she received four scholarships. This truly changes lives," said Jack Solomon, Chicagoland Partner representative for the Infinite Scholars Program.
Overall, the scholarship fair was a great opportunity to show young students that college is possible for them regardless of their economic or social background. It encouraged kids to pursue whatever it is they want in life. That is something truly special and not to be overlooked.
Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley, Superintendent of Lake Ridge New Tech Schools, came with a whole busload of students. As she walked around the room, many of her students ran up to her with college acceptance letters and scholarship offers in their hands. She was beyond overjoyed to see how motivated her students were by this event.
"Seeing the students be so engrossed in what they're hearing and watching them actively seek out admission to schools is wonderful. Our students are worth this opportunity and I'm very proud to just be here and be a part of it all," said Johnson-Shirley.
There's no doubt in anyone's mind that scholarship fairs like these are a huge bright spot in the Northwest Indiana community, helping to make it an even more wonderful place.
To learn more about the Urban League of Northwest Indiana and its mission to provide services to improve the conditions of students and their families throughout the Region and promote equality, visit www.ulofnwi.org