Shanequa Levin had to leave college during her second semester because she couldn’t afford it. She wasn’t aware of financial-aid options that may have kept her in school.
On Saturday, Levin, 36, of Huntington Station, was at a teen leadership summit at Adelphi University in part so her 17-year-old son wouldn’t face the same problem.
“I want to find out as much information as I can, to be empowered, to be knowledgeable and to take advantage of all of the resources out there,” Levin said during a break after a workshop.
About 170 high school students and parents attended the all-day summit organized by the Nassau County chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., a nonprofit that works to improve educational opportunities for black families.
African-American children are less likely to attend college than students who aren’t black, and those who do attend are less likely to graduate, said one of the speakers, Khalilah Harris, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
Part of the problem, Harris said later, is that black parents are less likely to have gone to college and therefore not as prepared to push their children in that direction.
Tanya Bonner, 45, of Elmont, said Harris helped her realize the importance of SAT and ACT tests for her 16-year-old son and how to navigate the college-application process.
“I’m definitely walking away with a lot of information,” said Bonner, who attended trade school but not college. “I don’t want him to just have a job. I want him to have a career, and that’s something he wants.”
Harris said parents and students should seek colleges that offer a welcoming and inclusive environment for African-Americans.
“Feeling safe and supported on campus is critical to a student being able to obtain a degree,” Harris said.
Students, who were primarily African-American and Latino and from Nassau County, attended workshops on leadership skills, interviewing techniques, SAT preparation, networking, careers and time management.
Francis Alexis, 14, a freshman at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, said he was at the summit because he doesn’t know what steps he needs to take now to get ready for college.
“I want to know what to do to prepare myself, so when I’m a senior I’m not lost,” he said.
Many of the speakers at the panels were black or Latino, offering examples to students of success, said Racquel Oden, president of the Jack and Jill chapter.
“Nothing is more inspiring than seeing diverse African-American and Hispanic leaders who look like them,” she said. “That inspires them to do the same.”