Thursday, March 15, 2001

Get on this bus, get a clue for life


College pays big-time, students are told

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Unless costs get in the way, Kourtney Robbins, a junior at Aiken High School, will attend Thomas More College or Kentucky State, Ohio State or Ohio Wesleyan University.

        On Wednesday, her pursuit of a college education seemed more possible after she stepped aboard the Ohio Success Express, a customized bus traveling the state and bearing materials that convey a simple message: College pays.

        The Ohio Board of Regents launched the $500,000 bus effort at a Columbus high school in January. The bus will visit more than 20 Ohio locales this spring. Wednesday marked the first stop in Southwest Ohio.

[photo] Cincinnati City Councilwoman Alicia Reece (center) talks aboard the Ohio Success Express bus with Aiken High School juniors (from left) Lisa Fulton, Aaron Lacey, Craig Mercer, Chai Yun and Reggie Anderson.

(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        The bus, emblazoned with the slogan “Higher Learning = Higher Earning,” was parked outside Aiken throughout the morning. It contains videotapes and brochures that pointed students toward financial aid resources and urged them to talk to counselors, principals, college officials and college graduates about the benefits of a college education.

        Materials were shared with almost 100 sophomores and juniors in the high school auditorium before students broke into small discussion groups. Some students including Kourtney, 16, conversed on the Success Express.

        Kourtney thinks the advice will help her in next year's financial aid hunt. Grants, loans and scholarships are the only way she can pursue a culinary arts, social work or psychology career, she said.

        Inspiration for the bus effort came from statistics indicating that Ohio's students were pursuing bachelor's degrees at a rate lower than the national average, said Jamie Abel, the board of regents' spokesman. (Fifty-five percent of Ohio's high school graduates pursue a college education, compared with 59 percent nationwide.)

        Mr. Abel told Aiken students that the average high school graduate will earn $1.1 million in his lifetime, while a college graduate will make a million more.

        Cincinnati City Councilwoman Alicia Reece was the keynote speaker. She told the teens to be alert when stepping on the Success Express.

        “I just hope you wake up and don't let that resource pass by,” she said. “See how you can build up your skills to be successful. I hope that you wake up, because, if you're asleep today, you'll be asleep 20 years from now.”

        Reggie Anderson, 16, paid attention. He and Kourtney are part of Aiken's college-bound program.

        “I want to go really bad,” he said. “It seems without college, there's nothing for my future. I want a good job. In order to get a good job, I have to go to college.”

        This year, Aiken enrolled about 1,150 ninth- through 12th-graders. Principal Tom Higgins said about 45 percent of Aiken graduates pursue college.

        The Success Express will visit Northwest High School in Colerain Township in mid-April. For information, go online at www. ohiosuccessexpress.com.
       



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