Friday, April 11, 2014

College Looms Large for D-B Students: Tours Help the Decision-Making Process

Those who have been through it, say it's never too late for high school students to start thinking about college.

With that in mind, senior members of Kingsport's New Vision Youth from Dobyns-Bennett, paid the first of 6 visits to college campuses.

Maryville College was first on the list. The picturesque university, its stately buildings and rolling acres, are on the east side of Maryville in Blount County, Tennessee, gateway to the western end of the Great Smoky Mountains.

That was impressive enough for some of the high school students.

"It's a good experience so far," says D-B junior Rashad Hunter, making his first college visit. He plans to major in film, directing and producing.

"I want to know what their majors are, what programs I can do afterwards and how the school can benefit me later on," he says.

Those feelings are echoed by the folks on the other end of the scruntiny.. the administrators being eyeballed by the prospective students. At Maryville College, the school holds an annual "Meet Maryville" where potential students can tour the school, talk with instructors and see what higher education the college has to offer.

"It's vital for students to find a college that's the right fit for them," says Dr. Tom Bogart, Maryville College president. "It's important for students to get a flavor of what life is like here, or any college. We have instructors in our classrooms ready to answer questions about the courses of study.. we also have current students who can tell of campus life and activities. I'm hoping that potential students understand that college is not just some big, abstract idea, but that it's really part of living a rich and fulfilling life."

The Kingsport group was welcomed with open arms.

"In some ways, Kingsport is just the right distance from Maryville," Dr. Bogart says. "Close enough to go home occasionally, but yet far enough to not need to, if necessary. We like the hometown feel of our campus, where everybody gets to see and hear different things while they're visiting. Maryville is a lot like Kingsport, a nice friendly city. Visiting here is a chance for prospective students to compare notes and talk about what they've seen and heard. They get to go through all of that together. Peer support and encouragement is important."

This is DB freshman Cadijah Williams' third college visit, in her quest to either be a kindergarten teacher or go into the Navy.

"It's fun visiting colleges," she says, having been to Austin Peay State University for the 2009 Governor's Highway Safety Initiative for Teens, and Tennessee Tech, host to last year's Tennessee Teen Institute. "Maryville College has a very pretty campus, with lots of outdoor stuff to do. That's important to me because you don't stay in the dorm room all the time. You get to be outside and meet new people, hang out and do different things."

Other colleges and universities on the visit list for the New Vision Youth upper classmen are ETSU, Milligan College, UT-Knoxville, Northeast State and Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN.

"We've done college tours three times now over the past few years," says New Vision Youth Director Johnnie Mae Swagerty. "It teaches them preparations for college, knowing what things to take, due dates for college scholarship applications, things like that. They can also find out if what they're interested in doing, can be a major or minor while they're studying. They also learn the rules and regulations for going to college."

Swagerty credits Maryville College alumnus Don Hickman for helping arrange the New Vision Youth visit to Blount County. Hickman, a former Kingsport resident, DB and Douglass School graduate, was on the alumni selection committee that chose Dr. Bogard as Maryville College's 11th president 4 years ago.

Dr. Bogart says, it's a small world when it comes to picking the right school for higher education.. often a game of "shop around."

"If we're not the right place, that's perfectly all right too," he says. "Picking a school can be difficult. Our job is to help them understand the characteristics they're looking for in their search for the right place. All we ask is that potential students give us an opportunity to show them what we've got, the atmosphere and the rich culture we have."

"If we're the right place for them, we will welcome them with open arms," says Dr. Bogart. "If we're not the right fit, they're still welcome here any time, because we see ourselves as a community asset for the region. We want them to know things about Maryville College, and perhaps they can tells someone else about something they liked here."

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