By Demara Barnes and Brittany Cupo
Rider’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and the National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton (NJTLT) came together on Oct. 30 to welcome Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, who provided insight on the importance of a college education.
Based on the ideals of tennis legend Arthur Ashe, NJTLT “creates opportunities for success by enriching the lives of under-resourced youth through innovative tennis, education, and mentoring programs,” according to their website.
The College Access Project is facilitated by student workers from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and mentored by Rider students of Multicultural Student Leadership Institute (MSLI), volunteers called Partners Assisting in Learning for Students (PALS).
The project emerged from a meeting initiated by Rider University Advancement with NJTLT, which “cultivates relationships with internal and external constituencies to increase engagement, enhance institutional stature, and acquire critical resources in support of the University’s key strategic objectives,” according to Rider’s website.
All attention was on Jackson when he spoke to a group of middle to high school-aged students about the importance of college and why it is essential that they attend.
Jackson began speaking about his life and what he did to get to where he is now, contrasting his experience with those of his siblings — especially that of one of his brothers, who was too busy partying and did not take his time at Rider seriously enough to stay enrolled.
Afterward, Jackson took the time to shake every hand in the room and talk with students and parents about what they are doing now, and what their dreams are.
Taking pictures and capturing last-minute dialogue with Jackson provided an excellent segue to sessions called College 101 and 102, which aimed to mentor the students on the basics of applying to college and some of the experiences that come with being a college student.
“Having the mayor with us tonight is indeed very special,” said Pamela Pruitt, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “He is quite a role model for not only the NJTLT students, but also for our Rider students.”
For the College 101 and 102 portions of the session, students were placed in five groups to participate in a speed dating-type exercise. The topics included applying for college, choosing the right school, transitioning from home to college and bullying, academics and campus policies.
This session was facilitated by the MSLI PALS, who used lessons learned from their own life experiences, along with resources from The College Board and information from online Rider policies.
Following was a Jeopardy–style game to see how much information they retained from the MSLI PALS mentors.
“I think the event went well overall,” said PALS volunteer and sophomore management and leadership major Erick Hodge. “The students loved the college access awareness session and it was great for the mayor to show how involved and committed he is to the community.”