In the days leading up to the second installment of Serve Your City DC’s college admissions workshop, federal authorities announced the discovery of an extensive bribery network which provided youth from affluent families, including the daughter of one 1990s sitcom star, guaranteed admission into many of America’s most prestigious colleges and universities — even without the eligible academic background.

Maurice Cook, founder and director of the Serve Your City DC program, now in its eighth year, said such news further confirms the significance of Saturday’s “College Admissions: A Road Map” event for local families who seek to engage the college application process with integrity but lack the experience of preparing for such a milestone.

“We want to get as many students into college who can be able to afford it,” Cook said during the March 16 gathering at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Northwest. “We have to get our youth to their fullest potential.”

For two hours, the ballroom area on the second level of the Prince Hall Masonic Temple turned into a one-stop shop of resources for aspiring college students and their families.

Independent education consultant Rebecca Claster helped participants develop a personalized action plan for students along various stages of the K-12 experience. Parents also had ample opportunity to learn about Serve Your City DC’s offerings, including college tours, mentorship, and a bevy of extracurricular activities and scholarships.

“It’s hard [for people] to acknowledge that as hard as we work to be eligible to get into college, there will be those who don’t have to work as hard and their success is predetermined on their parents,” Cook said as he touted Serve Your City DC’s mission. “That’s why we have to get as many people involved in the process.”

A 2018 Florida Gulf Coast University study found that college admissions responded less enthusiastically to Black candidates who engage in activism and demonstrated race consciousness. Researchers published their findings a couple of months after the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era guidelines for colleges and universities to diversify their campuses.

Even with the odds stacked against them, some Black parents have set out to use as many tools as possible to ensure their children attend the college of their choice.

With the help of Claster Educational Services, one parent developed an action plan for her two oldest children, one of whom will graduate high school this year with at least four college acceptances under his belt.

“We talked about the next steps and my children’s expectations about college,” the Southeast resident and mother of five, who requested anonymity, said during her second visit to Serve Your City DC’s college admissions event.

She first got involved with Serve Your City DC last year when her son attended a financial literacy workshop, later reconnecting with Cook to attend the first college admissions workshop last month.

“[We’re focusing] on getting higher grades and balancing academics and extracurriculars,” she said. “My children are just focusing on what’s in front of them. This resource has been crucial — they’ve been extra helpful answering my questions.”

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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