Road trip

BHS students to tour universities Southeast Michigan

BALDWIN – Going away to college at a major four-year university may seem out of reach for many students in Lake County.

Ayana Richardson is seeking to change that.

Richardson is the College Access Center Director and Promise Zone Coordinator for the Baldwin Community Schools has organized the first ever “Southeastern Michigan College Tour.”

Richardson will lead a group of 25 juniors and seniors from Baldwin High School on a three-day trip will cover most of Southern Michigan.

In creating the trip, Richardson said she wanted to foster an environment of higher education is Baldwin Community Schools.

“It’s my job to create a college going culture for the students,” she said.

The trip will consist of visits to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Oakland University in Rochester, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

The trip is free of cost to all students who are attending and the trip is supported with donations from Baldwin Community Schools, the Baldwin College Access Center and Promise, the Lake County Children’s Trust Fund, the West Michigan Community Mental Health System and the Rotary Club of Baldwin.

In the fall semester, Richardson took all fifth through 10th grade students on a series of campus visits to colleges that were within driving distance of Baldwin. The students on those trips visited Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw, Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids and Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

The inspiration for the “Southeast Michigan College Tour” came from a conversation that Richardson had with Baldwin Community Schools Superintendent Stiles Simmons about how during his time in Washington, D.C., Simmons saw that there were companies that would take students on a field trips to tour the sites and universities of major American cities, such as New York.

“We didn’t find any such companies here in Michigan, especially in this area,” Simmons said. “(Richardson) kind of took that idea and put this all together. It’s commendable.”

“I think it’s an outstanding opportunity.”

One of the aspects that is intriguing many of the students is the housing situation.

“I have never been to any of these campuses so I’m excited to check them out,” said Greg Lowe, 17. “I want check out the yearly cost and the housing situation.”

Baldwin High senior Paris Allen, 18, said she will use the trip to narrow her list of potential colleges.

“I have applied to all of them,” Allen said. “So I’m interested to see what they all have to offer.”

“I’m looking to gain more knowledge about the college experience and the housing,” said Devon Sparks-Burrell, 17, a Baldwin High Junior. “And the girls.”

Richardson said with the Southeastern Michigan college tour, that she wanted to make sure the juniors and senior saw more of the state and the educational opprtunities it has to offer.

“I think it is important for them to visit those schools, to see where they are, to see the communities and to see that they are different,” she said. “I think the furthest a lot of my students tell me they’ll go is Big Rapids and I’m always saying, there’s bigger cities than Big Rapids.”

Richardson wanted the students to be able to see a more urban area than they are used to in Lake County.

“Not that it’s better, but it’s even more industrialized, less rural,” she said. “It’s really a city type feel which is totally different than here.”

Simmons agrees with that mindset, saying that students should look beyond the west side of the state for their future.

“I think it’s extremely important that we expose our students to different places and different opportunities to broaden the vision they have for their future,” he said.

Richardson wanted this trip to be specifically for the juniors and seniors, because that they are so close to entering the college world.

The trip was open to all juniors and any senior that had applied to any of the five universities that will be visited on the trip, provided that the student had not received an out of school suspension and that they were college bound path academically.

The trip begins on Wednesday with a visit to Michigan State where the students will tour the campus and eat dinner in one of the university’s dining commons and the students will end the night at a hotel in Auburn Hills.

Thursday will see the students tour the campuses of Oakland University and Wayne State, before ending the evening in Ann Arbor.

In Ann Arbor, the students will attend a performance of “Zakir Hussain and Master Musicians of India” in the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium on Thursday night.

On Friday, students will tour the campuses of the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan, before departing back for Baldwin.

Richardson’s goal for the tour is for the students to embrace the trip and take advantage of the opportunity.

“Hopefully with the tour itself, they will embrace the experince and understand the importance of the experience,” she said. “In creating a college going culture, one of the things you have to do is to broaden the horizons, broaden the experiences, the expectations, the goals, aspirations, everything.”

Simmons is impressed with the work that Richardson has done in creating the trip from scratch.

“She did a remarkable job,” he said. “She has a lot of energy and really cares about the children.”

Richardson hopes that the trip will make students take the college admission process more seriously.

“My hope is that the experience would help them to think more intelligently about academics and college in general.”