Baldwin students attend college tour

BALDWIN — Several of Baldwin High School's best and brightest hit the road this week to explore their futures. They joined together for a tour of Michigan colleges to see which offered the brightest path for the years ahead.

The trip is run through the college access center and promise zone, an independent office operating inside Baldwin High School, but overseen and funded by the Baldwin Promise Authority. Setting out on a charter bus, the three-day program lets students see what colleges have to offer them.

"With the college access center, there are more students applying to college, more going to college and more succeeding after college," said Ayana Richardson, executive director of the college access center and promise zone, and the tour's organizer. "This has a great impact on the students. Kids who might have grown up impoverished can see that it doesn't have to limit them and college can be for them too."

This was the fourth year the school tour has been offered. Eighteen students took part in the trip this year, some of whom have attended in previous years but returned to get a better understanding of the schools as well as a wider variety.

"There were new schools each time and I wanted to get different experiences and broaden my options," said senior Jheresa Lewis. "I've already been accepted into several institutions and this trip is about making the right decision."

While many students can afford to visit colleges on their own, the cost can be a stumbling block to some. Lake County's isolated location also could be a deterrent to some families venturing out on their own. This way every student can get a chance to weigh their education options provided they maintain a strong grade point average, get a teacher recommendation and complete an essay for the college access center.

"I'm looking for the overall feel of the school, the atmosphere - things like a competitive environment, supportive community and a friendly attitude - and I'm looking for a place that feels like home," said sophomore Rose Lemieux.

Along with the schools, the students saw several other cultural institutions on the trip.

"This program is about broadening their horizons," said Richardson. "We want to make sure they're learning even if they're not in school."

The group left Baldwin on Sunday and attended the Great Lakes Crossing Aquarium in Auburn Hills. Monday featured tours of Michigan State University and Lansing Community College. Tuesday consisted of trips to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and the Museum of African American History in Detroit, as well as a tour of Lawrence Tech in Southfield. The trip finished up on Wednesday with tours of Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University in Rochester and Ypsilanti respectively.

"I'm going because the two schools I was looking at most are Eastern Michigan and Oakland University, and we're going to both of those this week," said senior Alec Wroblewski.

The cost runs about $450 per student, but the entire cost is paid for through the college center, save for one meal which is collected ahead of time to prevent last minute cancellations. The cost seems well worth it, as students and educators alike have nothing but positive things to say about this program.

"It's a great partnership with the board and the promise authority," said sophomore Reese Drilling. "I think any opportunity is a great opportunity. Plus, it's a good chance to network yourself and educate yourself and learn if one place doesn't have what you're looking for, you can see who does."

Going on the trip along with Richardson and the students is Duane Roberts Jr., an assistant at the college center, Baldwin High School graduate and trip chaperone.

"I graduated with the class of 2008 and Ferris was the only school that sent a rep to talk to us," said Roberts. "I applied to a few schools, but I decided on Ferris State. Now students get a chance to look at other schools, to give them a chance to see if there's something closer to what they're looking for out there. I love Ferris, but if I saw other options I might have made a different decision."