SpringFest Recruits Outstanding Minority High School Students
BATON ROUGE – With so many options out there for high school students who excel academically, the choice of where to attend college can often be a difficult decision. With its SpringFest program, LSU is hoping that by bringing the best and brightest minority students to LSU for a weekend to experience the academic, leadership and social opportunities available at the university, the decision to make LSU their top college choice will be an easy one.
This past spring, 79 academically high-achieving high school juniors from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee and Illinois converged on LSU's campus for the Office of Multicultural Affairs' annual SpringFest Minority Recruitment Weekend.
"These high school academic all-stars are the best Louisiana and surrounding states have to offer," said Chaunda Allen, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. "We know that these students have the potential to attend the college of their choice. Believing that LSU is one of the best schools in the nation, we want them to know that they don't have to go far to receive a great education and have a memorable college experience."
Most high school juniors already have a few universities that they may be considering. For some, like current finance student Jordan Ezell, LSU is already their top choice. Ezell knew he was attending LSU before attending SpringFest and the program simply finalized his decision.
"I had a great experience with SpringFest 2009 because it was a great way to meet people, and they really helped me make LSU my number one choice," said Ezell.
For others, SpringFest is a unique opportunity to experience all that LSU has to offer.
"I was considering UT Austin and the University of Pittsburgh when I came to SpringFest, and it provided me with a better understanding of the grand array of academic opportunities that LSU had to offer. It gave me clarity on why LSU was the school for me," said Angelle Bradford, a freshman biological sciences major at LSU from Baton Rouge.
Originally conceptualized as a program primarily for African-American students, SpringFest is open to all ethnic minority students who meet the program's requirements. The student must be a high school junior matriculating in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum; have at minimum a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale; have an ACT score of 23 or higher; and submit a letter of recommendation from their high school principal, school counselor or 11th-grade English or science teacher.
Each participant, called a SpringFest VIP, is assigned to one of five teams each named after prominent African-American figures – Kip Holden, current mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish, first African-American mayor in parish history and 1974 LSU alumnus; Maxine Crump, first African-American woman to live in the LSU residence halls; Shaquille O'Neal, 1999-2000 NBA Most Valuable Player, 15-time all star and 2000 LSU alumnus; Donna Brazile, Democratic political analyst and 1981 LSU graduate; and A.P. Tureaud Jr., the first African-American undergraduate student enrolled at LSU.
"For students who are not familiar with LSU's history, we want the VIPs to leave knowing at least one prominent African-American who attended LSU and has made an impact," said Allen.
SpringFest is a weekend full of activities featuring informational sessions on how to apply to LSU and how to apply for financial aid, a Q-and-A with current LSU students, a college departmental fair and a campus tour.
"The weekend was not only exciting for the VIPs, but it reminded me of what great things LSU has given me," said Gary Williams, business administration senior and SpringFest associate chair of leadership.
The weekend, however, is not complete without fun and friendly competitions that can help show participants how they can get involved once enrolled at LSU.
"I had a lot of fun at SpringFest, and it started my interest in being involved with programs and organizations within the African-American Cultural Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs," said Markita Lewis, a first year nutritional sciences major at LSU. "I would encourage any minority student who has the opportunity to participate in SpringFest to do so because you get to have a great weekend at a strong flagship university."
In addition to informational sessions, the VIPs are able to experience dining at the Tiger Lair and get a preview of the campus' Greek Life at the SpringFest Block Party hosted by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC, at LSU. This year, several NPHC organizations participated in "Greek Switch Day," where sororities and fraternities switch with each other and represent the other's organization.
Jerry Whitmore, assistant director of Greek Life, said the purpose of the SpringFest Block Party was "to get NPHC organizations collaborating with other fraternities and sororities they do not have natural brother/sister relationships with, and it also gave us an opportunity to showcase to the community that we all work together."
The VIPs even get to participate in the SpringFest prom. Similar to a high school prom, the women wear their best prom dresses and the men dress in suits. Following dinner in the LSU Student Union Cotillion Ballroom, a DJ plays music and the SpringFest participants are able to dance the night away. Prom kings and queens are crowned by the team captains, and students can even take prom pictures in front of a SpringFest backdrop.
"Some of them miss out on their high school prom because they chose to spend the weekend at LSU," said Cerise Edmonds, coordinator for cross-cultural affairs in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. "It also encourages greater interaction with other students who may be their classmates once they come to LSU."
The VIPs are not the only ones who enjoy the weekend. Each team is led by LSU student leaders, many of whom participated in SpringFest as high school juniors themselves, who go through an application and interview process for the highly coveted positions of team leaders and team captains.
"The thing I truly enjoyed about my SpringFest weekend experience was the chance to meet a large group of intelligent, minority students my own age and I have a lot in common with them," said Lewis, one of the 20 team leaders for this year's program. Lewis, Bradford and Ezell are among the 35 SpringFest VIPs from the 2009 SpringFest Recruitment Weekend who enrolled at LSU this past fall.
"Being a SpringFest team leader, for me, means that for one weekend I'm helping high school students learn how great LSU really is and all it has to offer minority students," said Estefania Reichard, a 2011 SpringFest team leader.
At the conclusion of the weekend, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Aid hosts a "Parent Panel" for parents to learn more information about LSU. The year, the panel was moderated by Mandy Martin, assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Aid, and the panelists included Nancy Clark, dean of the LSU Honors College; Bonnie Alford, director of the Office of Orientation; Maylen Aldana, assistant director of Residence Education; and Miles Baquet, a student representative.
Katrice Albert, vice provost for Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach, welcomed the parents to the event. Additionally, Saundra McGuire, assistant vice chancellor for Learning and Teaching, instructed parents on how to continue cultivating their student's success through coaching, preparation and recommendations on study strategies.
For more information on the SpringFest Minority Recruitment Weekend, please contact LSU's Office of Multicultural Affairs at 225-578-4339.