As long as he can remember, 17-year-old Dawalyn Hunter has always loved cutting hair. Now a senior at New Hope High School, he must decide where to go to barber school.
After receiving a haircut from Jadaluin Spencer, a first-year barbering program student at East Mississippi Community College, he might have found a future school not too far from home.
At a college recruitment fair Tuesday at the EMCC Communiversity on Highway 82 west of Columbus, Hunter joined about 1,200 other students from Golden Triangle high schools to speak with representatives of programs from several surrounding two- and four-year schools, including EMCC, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and the Mississippi University for Women.
At the fair, colleges and universities set up booths for school representatives to speak with students about the programs they offer. EMCC also set up booths with a number of its programs, such as cosmetology, engineering and construction.
EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks told The Dispatch the fair provides an opportunity for students to see a non-traditional college and learn about its programs in fields like engineering, mortician training, construction and nursing.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity because so many kids do not know the opportunities that exist in the workforce; a lot don’t get exposure to it,” Alsobrooks said. “You can get a two-year, one-year degree and really go out and get a rewarding job and earn a good living.”
Director of Recruiting Tawana Bauer said she expects around 800 students to apply for EMCC programs because of the fair, and some of those students will move on to schools like MSU or MUW after getting a one or two-year degree from EMCC.
“We partner in a lot of great ways,” Bauer said. “Universities are beginning to push more manufacturing and workforce programs and are coming up with bachelor’s of applied sciences so that our students can take two-year career tech programs and transfer to the university.”
The fair also offered professors starting new programs the opportunity to recruit students who might have a particular interest in that field.
MSU assistant professor Jonathan Barlow, who helped launch MSU’s Data Science program, said fairs like the one at the Communiversity inform potential students about new programs and help them to ask the right questions about their chosen field.
“The students kind of know what they want to do,” Barlow said. “I think they’re interested in new, interesting ideas, but they know what they want. They’re pretty good at asking the right questions.”
Apart from just school staff, college students played a significant role in talking to the high-schoolers. EMCC barbering program student Spencer, 27, for example, cut hair while telling students the tricks of his trade school experience.
“It’s a blessing because now I’m able to do what I want, I’m able to give an opportunity (to the students),” Spencer said. “I got a chance to talk to him (Hunter) about his dreams and everything, and I can tell them a little bit about what I’ve been doing.”
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