By Chelsea LoCascio
After filing off buses, a group of high school students headed into the Brower Student Center to learn what awaits them in college – if they decide to go.
The Lambda Theta Phi Latin fraternity hosted Hispanic College Day on Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for high school students from Perth Amboy, Jersey City and Newark.
“(Hispanic College Day has) been going on for a couple of years. The fraternity started it to help raise the minority at TCNJ,” said junior chemistry major and Lambda Theta Phi member Arturo Morillo, who helped run the program this year along with the Admissions faculty. “A lot of them don’t know about college. (We) wanted to give them as much knowledge and experience as possible.”
The day started in room 202 of the Brower Student Center as students crowded around an assortment of pastries and bagels, found a seat and chatted with friends. Then, the Assistant Director of Admissions for Multicultural Recruitment and the Educational Opportunity Fund, Dawn Wilson, proceeded with her welcome address.
Wilson addressed the need for increased diversity and outreach at the College. According to Forbes.com, around 66 percent of students at the College are white.
To get the students interested in continuing their education, Lambda Theta Phi set up three different workshops in the Social Science Building running from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The students broke into smaller groups to get the small classroom feel they would find here at the College, Wilson said.
One activity was the “Student Leader Panel,” a question and answer session with four College students, including Morillo and his fraternity brother, Juan Garcia, a sophomore engineering management major and vice president of Union Latina.
Garcia spoke about his involvement with the College’s radio station 91.3 FM WTSR and the creation of the first Spanish radio show since the channel’s inception in the 1960s.
Morillo shared his experiences as a CA, a fraternity brother and a former high school student who almost did not attend college. Originally, he had only set his eyes on the University of Pennsylvania until he was waitlisted. Afterward, he gave the College’s campus a chance – a decision he does not regret.
“You definitely make a whole new family here,” Morillo said. “(We’re) always looking for the best in each other.”
Morillo encouraged the high school students to make the best of their college experience and not be afraid to pursue their goals.
“(There are) multiple steps you can take to the goals you have,” Morillo said. “Different roads, different doors you can open.”
In the “Planning for College” workshop, students learned that before they open these doors, they first had to transition from the everyday ease of high school to the rigors of college life.
“(In high school), things become systematic,” said Jamal Johnson, assistant director of Admissions, Multicultural Recruitment and Mentoring, who led the workshop. “From day one, you know what the last day of your senior year will look like … In high school, you have a lot of assistance. In college, it’s all on you.”
The first test of a student’s independence happens during the college application process, which Director of Admissions Grecia Montero discussed in the “TCNJ Admission Process” workshop.
Afterward, the high school students had free time from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. to take a campus tour or eat in Eickhoff while discussing the “Real Deal,” including activities and social life outside of class, from current students.
The students returned to the Student Center for closing remarks from Lambda Theta Phi alumni Ed Maldonado, Julio Torres and Carlos Matos, who talked about the importance of their transformative college years, emphasizing the fact that they never gave up.
“You have to have that will to succeed,” Maldonado said. “Don’t quit — persevere.”