College was on the minds of hundreds of middle and high school students who attended a Way2GoMaryland event Dec. 1 at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC).
The session was intended to give young people and their parents information about preparing for college academically and financially.
The four hour event, held at the UMUC's Inn and Conference Center in Adelphi, included the testimony of a current college student, separate breakout sessions for students and parents and a college fair with representatives from Maryland colleges and universities. It also covered paying for college and high school course requirements for college.
The program was directed at Prince George's County 6th through 10th grade students and about 275 students and parents attended.
Anne Moultrie, vice chancellor for communications for the University System of Maryland, said the goal of the sessions is to help young people and their parents see that "college is possible, college is affordable."
Mike Lurie, a Way2GoMaryland spokesman, said middle school is a critical time to guide young people on the path to college.
The Way2GoMaryland program has been around since 2008 and two public sessions are held each year in various parts of the state. This year for the first time a separate session on paying for college was held by Spanish-speaking facilitators for Spanish-speaking parents. Some 40 parents attended.
While parents learned about ways to pay for college through college saving plans and other financial aid vehicles, their children were in a different room participating in a question-and-answer type game about placement exams, occupations, and majors.
Erica Weaver of Upper Marlboro brought her teenage daughter to make sure she understands how to prepare herself for college.
The mother said information about how to choose a major was particularly helpful.
Carolyn Weaver, 15, an eighth grader at Isaac J. Gourdine Middle School in Fort Washington said she wants to become a veterinarian and learned about a course dealing with science and animals.
Ernesto Quintanilla, 15, who attends Albert Einstein High School in Silver Spring, spoke to a representative of the University of Maryland University College seeking information for himself and his 12-year-old nephew.
"I wanted to find out more about marine biology, what colleges offer it," said Ernesto. He also asked about baseball scholarships for his nephew who was by his side.
Glory Ekhacor, 15, a Gwynn Park High School 10th grader, said she wants to be a radiologist and learned about majoring in different subjects.
"I really want to...need to know more about college," said Glory.
Bowie State University student Miguel Asua shared with the students and parents his experiences getting into and attending college. He also answered an array of questions, mainly from the young people.
"Having good grades definitely helps a lot," he told one student about receiving grants and scholarships.
He told the audience that he applied to several colleges but chose Bowie State University because he wanted to remain close to home so he could also work and help his mother.
When asked what his first year was like, Asua, who's majoring in broadcast journalism, laughed and admitted he wasn't very focused and partied heavily. He said mentors helped him become more focused and balanced.
Among the schools participating in the college fair: Salisbury University, Bowie State University, University of Baltimore, Frostburg State University and University of Maryland Baltimore County.