Standing before the eighth grade students of Ardmore Middle School, a panel of college students told the students it’s better to prepare for college sooner than later.
Six college students, five from the University of Oklahoma and one from Texas Southern University, spoke to the students about the importance of college, what college life is like and how they can begin preparing for life at a university. Several of the students are in the OU capstone class and encouraged the students to begin thinking about college as soon as possible.
“In middle school I didn’t have any plans to go to college,” Ogbo Okoronukwo said. “The advice I’d give to myself is dream really big. I didn’t really think of college as an option for me, but now that I’m about to graduate I feel like I should’ve been thinking bigger then.”
Okoronukwo was one of two OU football players in the group of students speaking to the middle school, with senior Dakota Austin also playing for the university. Many of the students expressed interest in playing sports at the collegiate level and Okoronukwo and Austin encouraged them to focus on academics and their responsibilities to prepare for college life.
“I’ve always been interested in the next level and looking further down the road,” Austin said. “It was a dream to come play in college.
“I’m listening to my teachers, I’m listening to my coaches and I’m listening to the adults in my life. They just kept me on the right path. They won’t steer you in the wrong direction.”
The students emphasized the importance of responsibility in college. While in middle school and high school a parent or guardian tends to motivate and push a student to attend class and do homework, the panel said that parental involvement isn’t there in college.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Austin said. “There’s no one to tell you when to do things, so you have to prioritize yourself.”
Ashleigh Jackson, a student at OU, said college opens up a new world full of diversity and different experiences. She said a large part of the college experience is discovering one’s self, which can be a motivating factor in reaching the end goal of graduating.
“As long as you’re dedicated to yourself and your vision of what your life will be like, that will provide your dedication to college,” Jackson said. “You can learn about so many different people and different ways of life.”
To wrap up the assembly, the students were told about their opportunities for college and how to fund their college education. Jackson told the students that she currently doesn’t pay anything out of her pocket. She attributed this feat to hard work, ensuring she kept her grades up and scholarships. She also said Oklahoma’s Promise allowed her to attend college, and pay for it, even though she came from a single parent, low-income family.
Oklahoma’s Promise offers Oklahoma students the chance for a scholarship that pays for tuition fees for any school in Oklahoma (the scholarships pays half of tuition fees for private schools in the state). Students’ family income must not exceed $50,000 per year in order to be eligible for the scholarship and students must enroll in the eight, ninth or tenth grade.
“You can take the first step today to work toward college,” Cindy Huddleston, AMS principal, told the group of students, encouraging them to take home information about Oklahoma’s Promise.