Hundreds show up to PROBE colleges at CEC


Drake Russell, left, talks about the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s offerings to Jennifer Doolittle and her daughter, Julie Lenderman.

More than 350 students, prospective students and parents thronged the hallways and cafeteria at Central Educational Center Monday, braving a stormy night to check out the offerings at CEC’s annual PROBE College Fair and Open House.
“I was thrilled, it was great,” said Nora Ann Wood, high school counselor at CEC, who said a dozen agencies – including Coweta County Special Olympics and Parent to Parent – also provided information for people with special needs as part of the tandem Transition Fair. “We usually have a good crowd, but I was afraid a lot of people might not come out because of the weather. But it was great.”
Wood said CEC makes a point of holding the event annually.
“Never anywhere else would kids have so many colleges and schools together in one place,” Wood said, stressing the importance of students’ interaction with representatives from a variety of educational programs.
Representatives from 62 colleges, universities, vocational-technical programs and other educational track providers were on hand to pass out literature and answer questions about their schools from students like 13-year-old Julie Lenderman, who stopped at the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s booth to speak with Drake Russell.
Lenderman, who is part of a first-year pilot program in which eighth grade students in the Coweta County School System attend CEC part-time, was at the fair with her mom, Jennifer Doolittle.

“I’m here just getting an idea of what I want to do,” said Lenderman, who wants to study marine biology or forensic science. “I know a lot of people who are dead set on going to a certain college, but then find out they don’t offer what they want to study.”

Doolittle said 13 is definitely not too young to think about college.

“Like (Julie) said, she’s getting an idea of what schools offer what,” Doolittle said. “We found out you can start applying for scholarships in middle school. Now that we know, we’re going to start filling out applications next year.”

For Newnan High School senior Carly Duke – stopping for information at the booths of small, private colleges with her parents – the issue of college is a little more pressing.

“I’m looking for schools that have good education programs,” said Duke, a Teacher Pipeline intern who intends to either teach elementary students or become a middle grades math instructor. “I want small classes where I can interact with teachers.”

Duke, clutching information from Point University and Truett-McConnell College as she headed toward the Berry College table, said she has an appointment to visit Berry later this month. Like most prospective students, she is concerned about college costs.

“A lot of them are telling us what scholarships they accept,” she said. “Some don’t accept HOPE, so we’ll know how much they will accept.”

Wood said the fall fair gives students a chance to adjust their class schedule to address requirements in particular subjects as well

“They can ask questions about whether they need a certain course in high school and if they don’t have it, they can still take it in the spring,” said Wood. “A lot of them ask if they need a foreign language, and of course we tell them they do, but they get to hear it directly from the school.”

Having out-of-state schools represented so students could be aware of increased tuition and scholarship or work-study programs was important, Wood said. Addressing specifics like meal plans and housing – for Duke, “How far you can live off campus, or whether you can live off campus at all the first year or two,” for instance – was another benefit of face-to-face interaction.

“It’s really helping narrow down the choices,” Duke said.

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