High school senior Raven Davis stood in the student union of the University of Memphis as part of a college tour when she received an email that couldn’t have come at a better time.
In one of the greatest “wow” moments of her life, Raven was reading her acceptance letter to the university at the same time she and her fellow Simmons High School students from Hollandale were visiting the campus. Raven described it as an incredible complement to an important and informative tour.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Kendarius Moore, project coordinator for the Deer Creek Promise Community (DCPC), part of the Delta Health Alliance (DHA). “We chose to tour the University of Memphis based on some seniors in the Deer Creek Youth Council who’d mentioned they’d been accepted to the university but had never visited the campus.”
The college tour, an annual event by DHA, was led by Moore; Katelyn Ables, DCPC project manager; and Betty Newell, a Simmons High School counselor. The subsequent tours have focused on in-state institutions as a way to combat the exodus of young Mississippians leaving the state.
“This tour gave them the opportunity to visit an out-of-state university and receive some valuable information from current students,” said Moore. “The tour guides led us through the campus providing information on admissions, scholarships, majors and careers, and personal stories on their decision to come to the University of Memphis.
In addition, students toured the National Civil Rights Museum, gaining a perspective on the work and others endured to earn basic rights and opportunities for everyone.
Raven said that the youth council members were excited about the tour, asking many questions on the school’s offerings. The student tour guides, she said, were great at answering questions based on the feedback they were getting from the students.
The Deer Creek Youth Leadership Council is comprised of students in 9th-11th grades from Hollandale and Leland who want to make a mark on their communities. Modeled after the highly successful Indianola Youth Council, members must hold a 2.8 GPA or higher; have recommendations from teachers, administrators and community leaders; complete an application; and undergo an interview process.
The youth council focuses on college readiness, laying the foundation for post-secondary success by providing workshops and exposure to events such as the college tours.
“To ensure our students stayed engaged throughout the trip, we conducted pop quizzes after touring both the National Civil Rights Museum and the University of Memphis,” said Moore. “The quiz questions were made prior to the trip based on civil rights events and questions about college admissions.”
Moore said that tours like this are vital in encouraging the students to stay on track as they move toward high school graduation.
“Overall, this was a great trip,” he said. “Everyone had fun, and it was awesome seeing students from both communities experiencing a rewarding opportunity together. We want them to be in the best position possible when they enter college.”