Students from Central and Largo high schools acted like it was no big deal as they joined a professional football player to tour two local college campuses on Friday.
Usama Young, a 2003 graduate of Largo High who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, rounded up about 170 freshmen, sophomores and juniors from the two high schools for a glimpse into the college experience at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the University of Maryland, College Park, as part of his second annual college tour with Prince George’s County students.
Students from Largo High and Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro visited Morgan State University and Towson State University with Young last year.
“They have to know [college] is a possibility,” said Young, who graduated from Ohio’s Kent State University in 2008. “They have college fairs, but not so often do you have somebody able to take them out and get a firsthand look at what’s out there.”
At Howard University, a guide pointed out various campus buildings and landmarks, including “death valley,” a recessed part of campus surrounded by buildings that house chemistry and physics classrooms, while sprinkling her tour narrative with notes about famous alumni and whether you have to wait for a shower in the residence halls.
“I consider Howard a possibility for my future college,” said Aidan Marshall, a freshman at Largo High. “I want to learn how the school works, if it’s a good institution.”
The chance to meet Young wasn’t the reason Aidan, 14, signed up for the tours, but it was a bonus, he said.
Young sponsors the tours — including buses and lunch for the students — through his Usama Young Foundation and plans to continue offering the opportunity to visit area colleges to Largo High students and students from another county high school each year.
One of Young’s goals is to organize exchange tours that would allow students in Prince George’s County and students who live where Young plays to tour colleges in the others’ location, said Leelannee Malin, Young’s publicist, in an email to The Gazette.
Young also donated $15,000 to the Largo High athletics department April 26 during a fundraiser for his foundation in Bowie.
The donation will be used for new uniforms and equipment for the school’s football, soccer, basketball, track and tennis teams, Largo High Principal Angelique Simpson-Marcus wrote in an email to The Gazette.
Prompting students to think sooner about college options, especially regional options, helps students to make better, more informed decisions, said Jacqueline Slay, the Largo High AVID coordinator who accompanied more than 100 students from the school on the tours.
AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is an academic elective program that teaches students study skills and prepares them for college. AVID students from both Largo High and Central High made up the bulk of students who participated in Friday’s college tours.
“If we expose students to college and the college-going process and college campuses, they will feel the need and urgency of going to college,” Slay said of how the AVID philosophy meshes with Young’s motivation behind organizing the annual tours.
Sheree Leonard, the AVID coordinator at Central High, said she tried to plan a few college tours for her students but the cost was prohibitive.
“I’m glad [Young] is doing this,” Leonard said. “When [students] come, see the buildings, talk to the students, it becomes real to them. They can imagine themselves here.”
And that’s exactly what Quandrea Bryant, a sophomore at Central High who wants to be a chef, said she was doing Friday morning as she walked in and around Howard University’s many buildings and soaked in a bit of the collegiate life.
“I want to experience going to a college campus, and learn how much it’s going to cost,” said Crystal Staggs, a sophomore at Central High who wants to attend the University of Richmond in Virginia.
Representatives from each university spoke with students about admissions requirements, financial aid and scholarships, Leonard said. Young said he wanted college students from both universities to advocate directly for high school students to attend each university.
“I hope [the high school students] say that college is for them,” Young said. “I want them to further their education.”