By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
AUGUST 21, 2013 – The new College Prep Café and all that comes with it helped freshmen Brea Brown, Seth Caffin and Sarahi Zacapala choose Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy as their high school.
“I found out that, if you graduate with a 3.0 average, you get to go to college,” said Chaffin, who went to Flat Rock Middle last year.
“I wanted a program where they give you a scholarship,” said Zacapala, who went to Kernersville Middle.
“I heard that they set you up for college and they help you get in,” said Brown, who went to Hanes Magnet.
Today, freshman throughout the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system have spent the day at their high schools so that they could get a jump on the new world that high school brings. At Winston-Salem Prep – where 90 of those 4,400 freshmen are going – it was also the day chosen for the dedication of the College Prep Café, a warmly decorated room where students will sit at café tables and use laptops they have been given to take online courses.
The café is part of a pilot program sponsored by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. In addition to providing laptops for up to 100 freshmen, fund officials have committed to guaranteeing students who maintain a 3.0 average admission to one of 47 traditionally black public universities as well as a partial scholarship. The valedictorian will be eligible for a full scholarship.
This morning, Superintendent Beverly Emory joined others from the school system, from Thurgood Marshall and from Winston-Salem State University - one of the traditionally black public universities - at the café for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We’re here today to celebrate a huge accomplishment and partnership,” Emory said.
Denise Hines, the school’s technology coordinator, and Kevin Sherrill, the school system’s director of information technology, were recognized for the work they have done to make sure the café is ready for students.
Winston-Salem Prep counselor Rhonda Scott said she thinks that the café will be a wonderful addition to the school’s program. For one, the online courses that students will be taking as electives will enable them to explore different interests, she said. “As a counselor, we are always telling our students to try out different things.”
Melvin Palmer, who coached football and taught social studies at Carver High School, is the facilitator for the café. He is also coaching the school’s new football program. Until this year, the school did not have a football program. As the first step in changing that, it has starting a junior-varsity football program.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, everyone headed to the auditorium to meet with the freshmen. Winston-Salem Prep is a magnet high school that focuses on having students graduate in four years ready for college, and Watts spoke to the freshmen about the importance of thinking of themselves as members of the Class of 2017.
“Not 2018. Not 2019,” Watts said. “In four years, you will graduate. That’s your goal.”
When Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, stepped up to the podium, he introduced another number – 2021. When he asked students what that number represents, freshman J’Meil Hairston spoke up, saying that is the year they can graduate from college.
Absolutely right, Taylor said. “If you do your part and graduate in 2017, we will do our part and make sure you can continue through and graduate from college in 2021.”
Emory said she hoped that, one day, the freshmen will look back and remember Aug. 21, 2013 as the day they were offered an opportunity that changed their lives.
After the meeting in the auditorium, students headed to the media center for the next phase of their orientation. As he walked, Hairston talked about his plans for the future, which most certainly include graduating from college. Career possibilities include owning his own technology company some day.
Tyler Lambert pictures himself as an architect. Jonathan McLaurin sees himself as a professional athlete, lawyer or banker. Brown wants to be an emergency-room trauma surgeon. She knows that means working hard in the coming years. “Nobody wants an unprepared ER trauma surgeon working on them,” she said.
Michelle Hargrove is not yet sure whether she wants to follow a path that leads to becoming a veterinarian or to becoming a judge. Either way, she thinks that the College Prep Café and all that comes with it will help her reach her goals. “I’m glad that (Winston-Salem) Prep has upgraded to the new things so we can learn better and have fun,” she said.
She also took the opportunity to praise Watts. “Mr. Watts is a good principal,” she said.
Plans for the café began about 18 months ago when Juontonio Pinckney, the Fund’s Senior Director for Talent Acquisition and Campus Relations, called then-superintendent Don Martin. Martin, who retired this summer, was on hand to celebrate.
Others at the ceremony included Pinckney, Andrea Horton, a fund senior director; Denise Pearson, the dean of the School of Education and Human Performance at Winston-Salem State; and Rodney Coleman, the university’s project coordinator for Real Men Teach, which supports men who want to become teachers. During the coming school year, some of them will be spending time with students in the café, Coleman said. Mickey Revenaugh, Executive Vice President of Connections Learning, was also integral to making the café a reality, Pinckney said.
Winston-Salem Prep still has room for 10 more freshmen. “Our goal is to get 100,” Watts said.