LIBERTY CITY — As a college assistance program advisor at Miami Northwestern Senior High, LarMarc Anderson is used to hearing the same excuse from students when it is time to talk about college.
The excuse, he says, always boils down to one thing: money. Specifically, not having enough of it to pay college tuition.
“I don’t want to hear that,” Anderson told the South Florida Times. “It’s a poor excuse. There’s a lot of money out there for undergraduates that goes untouched every year.”
Anderson was one of four speakers who discussed the college preparation process at the third annual Historically Black College and University Recognition Forum hosted by the Metropolitan Dade County Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), in partnership with the Miami chapter of the Top Ladies of Distinction (TLOD).
During the four-hour Feb. 25 forum at the Church of the Incarnation’s J. Kenneth Major Hall, 1835 N.W. 54th St., Miami, Anderson told an audience of 60 teens, parents and grandparents about college entrance requirements, such as grades and standardized test scores.
“Don’t let these grades intimidate you,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to go that extra mile.”
He then turned his presentation to sources of funding and financial aid, including grants and scholarships. He said that some corporations are always offering scholarships to students and he encouraged the teens to look into them.
Alfred Fair, sitting in the audience, couldn’t help telling his daughter, Shania Fair, 16, to write each point down, which she did promptly.
“I didn’t want her to miss anything,” he said about the junior at William H. Turner Technical Arts High School in north central Miami-Dade who wants to study film at Florida State University, Florida A&M University (FAMU) or the University of Miami. “I want her to know everything we need to do to get her into college. That’s our number-one goal.”
Audience member Constance Pinkney, a parishioner at the Church of the Incarnation, learned about the forum after Sunday service two weeks earlier. She leaned forward as she listened to Anderson, while her grandson, Kevin Pinkney, 15, jotted down the grant and scholarship information.
Pinkney said she would like Kevin, a sophomore at Miami Northwestern High in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, to learn about the college preparation process so he can apply for scholarships and grants early.
Kevin hasn’t spoken with Anderson at school yet but he said listening to him “took a little pressure off” and made him feel more comfortable scheduling an appointment with him to talk about schools that teach sports medicine.
The local NCNW and TLOD chapters held the first HBCU Recognition Forum in 2010 at the Charles Hadley Community Center in Liberty City according to the NCNW’s Nadelyn Harris.
The two organizations contacted area schools and churches about this year’s forum after asking the Rev. Hayden Crawford for permission to hold it at the church.
“I was excited,” Crawford said. “I believe this is a ministry of community.”
The audience also heard from retired guidance counselors Barbara Stinson and Imogene Johnson, as well as and Nathaniel Robinson III, who graduated from then Florida Memorial College . Robinson spoke of his experience attending what is now Florida Memorial University (FMU).
“I was not expendable. I wasn’t a statistic,” Robinson said of his experience at FMU. “The faculty recognized my potential and had me live up to it.”
Stinson, who grew up in Richmond Heights and graduated from FAMU in 1969, had a few of the students read aloud the poem Equipment by George Washington Carver. She quoted the poem and challenged them to “fight for” what they want: a college education.
“Everything that you need is right here with you,” said Stinson, who worked as a Miami-Dade County Public Schools social studies teacher and guidance counselor for more than 30 years before retiring in 2003. “You just need to find it in you.”
The speakers challenged the teens to improve their writing and math skills, and to take additional courses in high school.
Like Shania and Kevin, Jazzmin Johnson, 16, a sophomore at Coral Reef High in Richmond Heights in south Miami-Dade, also took copious notes. She said she would like be a veterinarian but hasn’t decided if she wants to attend the University of Florida or Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Jazzmin’s mother, Lastasha Johnson, earned her bachelor’s degree in behavioral science at Barry University and is considering going for a master’s degree but is “waiting to get the little one on her way” first.
Johnson, a member of NCNW, noticed her daughter scribbling down website addresses and other information during the discussion.
“Sometimes they don’t pay attention to what mom or dad says but maybe here, listening to others say the same things, that just might help it stick,” Johnson said.
Photo: LarMarc Anderson