AALSP college visits provide helpful new perspectives

The African American and Latino Scholars Program (AALSP) recently visited Columbia University and Barnard College in New York City. These school tours give insight into the college experience. CONTRIBUTED BY STEPHANIE HUNT

AALSP is a voluntary program for students of color at the high school which allows them to learn about issues within the African American and Latinx communities that they may not learn about in their mainstream classes. The program also helps students prepare for life after high school. One of the ways in which the program does this is by going on multiple college tours each year. Most recently, they visited Columbia University and Barnard College in New York City.

According to AALSP Director Stephanie Hunt, going on college tours gives students in AALSP a better idea of what kind of college they want to go to by letting them experience different types of schools.

“We try to give kids a glimpse into different types of colleges, whether it be Ivy League schools or private institutions or state schools, so they can get a sense of how the colleges compare,” Hunt said.

Hunt said going on tours gives students the opportunity to look at out-of-state schools that are more attainable and affordable for many students.

“I think that because we’re in Boston you hear about, BU, BC, Harvard, MIT, and you don’t realize that there are other schools, and there are other schools that are a lot more affordable and can provide some of our students with what they’re looking for,” Hunt said. “Whether it be their majors or just the community style of the campus.”

For senior Jasmine Benitich, visiting out-of-state schools was one of the most important features of the trip.

“I’m just thankful that I can finally choose the right school in New York, because I do want to end up living in New York in the future,” Benitich said.

She said that she knew she wanted to go to school in New York City but wasn’t sure where. According to Benitich, touring colleges with AALSP helped her realize where she might want to go, even if it was not what she was expecting.

“I went to NYU a month ago and didn’t fall in love with it as much, so that kind of scared me. Then I went to Columbia, wanted to fall in love with it, and didn’t fall in love with it either,” Benitich said. “But I fell in love with Barnard, so now that’s becoming my top school.”

Students in the African American Latino Scholars Program pose with a statue of Frederick Douglass in New York City. AALSP toured Barnard College and Columbia University on this recent trip to New York. CONTRIBUTED BY STEPHANIE HUNT

For Benitich, gaining a pathway to where she wanted to live was the most important part of the trip.

Senior Aliyah Campbell, who said that she was already pretty sure about where she wanted to go to school, had a different perspective on what the college tours do for students in AALSP.

“Ms. Hunt’s goal was to have students of color go to a school that’s so prestigious and such a great school,” Campbell said. “To say that we have opportunities as well and that it is possible for us to go to a school as nice as Columbia and not just settle for a school that may not be seen as good.”

According to Campbell, it was important and useful to her to see prestigious schools away from home and to know that she had the opportunity to go there too, even if that’s not what she saw for herself. For her, seeing different types of schools really just assured her that the school she had already chosen was better for her.

“I didn’t see that many students of color at Columbia and I know that the school that I want to go to does have more students of color,” Campbell said. “And just being in a smaller community at the school I want to go to rather than Columbia, which is huge, really just assured me that a smaller environment is better for me.”

According to Hunt, students walk away from these trips with better expectations of what they need in order to apply to different universities.

“They walk away with a sense of, ‘Okay, could I see myself here? What will these colleges and universities provide to me, as a student of color, and what opportunities and passions can I explore here on campus?’” Hunt said.

Hunt said that her favorite part of taking students on college campus tours is getting to see them engage with what the school has to offer and get excited about the next step in their lives.

“I feel like the college process is really stressful, and then they go on all of these college tours and they see all of these college students doing it,” Hunt said. “And they’re like, ‘alright, I can see myself here,’ or ‘I can’t see myself here and that’s okay.’”