‘A Walk for Education’ emphasizes benefits of college

The National Society of Black Engineers hopes to increase the number of minorities majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics  fields. As of 2012, the U.S. engineering workforce was composed of 5.5 percent African Americans, 12.7 percent Latinos, 4.5 percent Asians and 77.3 percent whites, according to the National Association for Minorities in Engineering in their 2012 annual report. 

The society held its event “A Walk for Education” on Oct. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The walk was geared toward encouraging underprivileged minorities to enroll in post-secondary education, said Edward Vaughn, the society’s community chairperson.

“AWFE is to increase awareness of the opportunities available through education, particularly in the STEM fields and to shatter myths about African-Americans in math, science, engineering and other technologies.”

Vaughn, junior in Engineering, said he hopes the community will utilize the information and increase the number of black college graduates within STEM fields.

More than 40 students volunteered in the walk, going door-to-door in low-income minority communities in Champaign to distribute information on college, scholarship information, SAT and ACT preparation tools as well as share information on the benefits of majoring in STEM fields.

“Hopefully the information will inspire them to go to college if they haven’t already been,” Vaughn said. “It’s important because we, as minorities, need to be educated in this society or else people will exercise their power upon us.”

Students on the walk made an effort to reach into the community and initiate a relationship that can be developed further, said Takeya Green, president of the University chapter of the society and senior in Engineering.

“Since we already have the higher education experience it is important for us to reach back and make sure that the ones that are younger than us are actually knowledgeable about the opportunities that are out there and about things they can do to get to higher education within the STEM fields,” she said.

Green said the importance of minorities majoring in STEM fields goes beyond history.

“It’s very important because as our history, African Americans are known to be undereducated,” Green said. “We tend to have jobs that are minimum wage and with (during) times of inflation it’s getting harder and harder. We’re promoting higher education within the STEM fields so that all African Americans can be on the same level of the playing field as everybody else.”

Ajibade Fashola, senior in Engineering, said while volunteering with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., he made a connection with a young high school student.

“I’m a college student right now and the opportunity to go to college was readily available for me and the desire was there and that’s just something some people just don’t have because they don’t have the information and the push to want to go to college,” he said.

Fashola said programs like “A Walk For Education” are good because some minorities need to be pushed and supported to succeed.

“Sometimes I feel like we really take our education for granted because we don’t realize it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Fashola said. “College isn’t just about going and getting a degree — college really gives you an experience. You go there, you grow, you mature and you’re networking on some levels. You’re building a network of your own as well.”

After Fashola engaged in a personal conversation with the young high school student, he promised Fashola that he would go to college.

Nyajai can be reached at [email protected]