Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. event helps high school students

Chevall Pryce , Staff Writer

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. recently gave 43 high school students a taste of college life with their inaugural event “AVID with the Alphas.”

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and other postsecondary opportunities. High school students from the North Texas area were selected as part of the program to spend a day with members of the Alphas and gain insight into the benefits of attending a university.

During a three-tier process, students learned how to apply for college, heard first-hand accounts of how to make the transition from high school to college, and participated in the social aspect of college by attending a tailgate with the Alphas

Relius Johnson, a former participant in AVID as well as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and several other organizations on campus, helped put together the event in terms of funding and management.

“We just wanted to get more students aware of college, especially minorities,” Johnson said. “Blacks and Hispanics aren’t going to college. So, we all came together and thought of this program.”

The program focused on minority students, specifically Hispanics and African-Americans and encouraging them to enroll at Texas A&M University – Commerce, or any university in general. Students were told how college would benefit them later in their lives as well as how to process financial aid and when to take standardized tests like the SATs and ACTs when applying for college. This was all done in conjunction with campus offices Undergraduate Admissions, Fraternity/Sorority Life, New Student Orientation, the Latino American Mentor Program, the African American Mentor Program, and Lion’s Athletics.

Jeff Ewing, member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. also helped plan and oversee AVID with the Alphas.

“I feel like [AVID with the Alphas] will draw young people’s attention at an earlier age. In 9th or 10th grade, most of them don’t really know what college they want to go to. They don’t really know what college is,” Ewing said. “I would sympathize more with someone who was raised the same as me rather than someone who was raised knowing they were going to college…It can take that one person that looks like you saying ‘I made it, and you can too’. It can give you a better sense of hope.”

Students also participated in the conventional tailgate before the football game, getting the opportunity to socialize with college students and gain insight into Greek life after covering the business-side of college. The Alphas also performed their traditional strutting for the students before going to the game.

During the football game against Angelo State, which was being broadcast on ESPN, students in AVID were given the chance to run the flags across the field. The students were also admitted to the game for free, with a section of the seating reserved for them and members of Alpha Phi Alpha.

“We couldn’t have gotten the students involved with the football game without the help of the athletics department,” Johnson said. “The Alumni Association actually put up the money for the football tickets.”

After the event, students were sent back to their respective towns.

“They didn’t want to leave when it was over,” Johnson said. “I heard one student say that he was actually thinking about going to college now.”

Ewing wants the event to get bigger than it currently is.

“This was just a test trial. We want this to continue and grow bigger throughout the years,” Ewing said. “We should have it sooner than we did this time, further away from Mane Event and closer to the beginning of the semester. It caused a problem with participation this time. We’ll probably move it to the first game of the semester, so we can be with a bigger crowd.”

Johnson believes that the event accomplished what it was supposed to.

“ I was 10 of 22 AVID students to attend Commerce. When you look at the statistics, you’re more likely to have a high paying job and better economic status it you get a college education. Getting [African-American students] to see that there are more of them in college and giving them a program that they’ll be more inclined to come to will get them to go home and start having those conversations [about college] with their parents. I want kids to go home and say ‘Mom, I want to go to A&M – Commerce.’ I didn’t do AVID with the Alphas for the university or the Alphas. I did it for the students.”