College pep rallies explain options to students in at-risk schools

Officials from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, are doing what they can to increase interest in post-secondary education in at-risk schools.

The Clark County School District's 34th annual college fair at the Cashman Center Oct. 25 was preceded by pep rallies at Canyon Springs, Desert Pines and Rancho high schools. Students from Bonanza High School, 6665 Del Rey Ave., were bused to Rancho, 1900 Searles Ave.

Each school hosted workshops with representatives from UNLV talking about financial aid and the admission process, among other topics.

The program, Got College!, was funded as part of a federal grant. Funding for a second year is uncertain.

Keith Rogers, deputy executive director of the Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach at UNLV, coordinated the event.

"The schools we targeted are underperforming," Rogers said. "They're in at-risk communities, economically disadvantaged communities where graduation rates and college-going rates are going to be lower. We hope they become more engaged and more focused on their high school studies."

More than 100 students at the Rancho event received drawstring backpacks, brochures and catered food including ribs, fried chicken, sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese.

Some students in attendance skipped the informational workshops and came looking only for a free meal, but most were there to learn.

"I learned a lot about financial aid," said junior Mersady Barrett. "Both of my parents are out of work, so to learn about those scholarships was really big. It's just free information that you don't have to go find on your own."

Senior Brianna Early also found the financial aid portion helpful.

"I learned that there's grants for everything," said Early, "like having green eyes, being 5 feet 5 (inches) or less, there's grants for everything.

"In this society and this economy, you need to go to college. It's just hard to pay for it."

Ward 5 Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow also visited with students and stressed the importance of post-secondary education.

Jose Melendrez, assistant vice president of the Office of Diversity Initiatives at UNLV, hopes the university can secure the grant for next year to hold the same event and reach more students. He believes it is important to invest heavily in the community with these types of events.

"The majority of Nevada kids stay home," he said. "They go to school at (the University of Nevada, Reno) or UNLV, or they start off at the College of Southern Nevada. It behooves us as a system of higher education to really build a stronger quality program for these kids."

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Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at or 224-5524.