Over $1 million in DSU scholarships given at 76ers Fieldhouse event
WILMINGTON – For 252 high-school students, going to the 76ers Fieldhouse on Sept. 20, was memorable not only because they saw Stephen A. Smith and ESPN’s “First Take” – and NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. –-- tape the show live from center court to celebrate HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Week in Wilmington. It will be was memorable because they were accepted on the spot to go to college next year at Delaware State University, (DSU), and collectively received $1.1 million in scholarships to attend, including five full scholarships.
Nearly 500 high-school seniors showed up, transcripts and test scores in hand, to apply to DSU with many more applying to (or learning more about) the 25 HBCUs that were part of the college-fair experience. The day provided them with an opportunity to avoid the “red tape” of college applications and simply get decisions on the spot based on grades and test scores.
Jessie Kargbo, a senior at Mt Mount Pleasant High School from Sierra Leone, West Africa, said the college fair was crucial in taking the next step in his education. He will be the first member of his family to attend college and plans to major in medicine and become a doctor.
“I came in and was a little nervous,” Kargbo explained. “But after that first admission to Bowie College, I realized that if I be myself, I’m sure I can get into any college I want.”
Kargbo was also accepted to four other schools at the Fieldhouse: Benedict College, Lincoln University (both offered a full scholarship), Norfolk State University, and Delaware State University, where he was offered a $6,800 scholarship. He thought the college fair was a great opportunity, saying “I talked to many other colleges as well and it was a really productive and helpful experience for me, and I’m sure other students as well.”
Delaware State University Provost Tony Allen, who will become DSU’s president on Jan. 1 and himself a first-generation college student, said there are many students like this at DSU and he plans to continue his support for other students hoping to follow that same path.
Allen said he wants to “keep on raising profiles of HBCUs” and to reinforce the importance of “critical thinking, believing in yourself, and paying it forward to help make sure that future students have the same opportunities that you had, if not better.”
The DSU student body turned out in force to support the event. ESPN had asked the school to get 150 students to attend, but more than 1,100 students and their families packed the arena to watch the taping of “First Take.”
Stephen A. Smith has been a huge HBCU advocate since his basketball days at Winston Salem State University, (WSSU) and continues to be an outspoken advocate of HBCUs ’s and their continuing progression.
“The opportunity to tackle an event like this where you’re bringing attention to HBCUs, the importance of them in giving African-Americans in our communities an opportunity to attend, and also heighten their profile, these are all great, great causes,” Smith said in advance of the event.
The doors opened at 7 a.m. and busloads of students, community leaders, school representatives, and fans of “First Take” flowed through the front doors throughout the morning. By the time “First Take” went live at 10 a.m., the near-capacity crowd had enjoyed performances from DSU’s marching band, student-led school chants, and the pure electric atmosphere that was forming as the morning began to pick up steam. Throughout the day, a total of 5,500 people stepped through the doors to partake in the college fair and to get a peak at the taping of “First Take.”
Smith’s alma mater, WSSU, was one of the schools looking for applicants. Toreisha Faison, an admissions representative, said the college fair was a great opportunity for students on the fence to get more information, and for students who didn’t think college was an option to help have that door opened.
“It’s exposure for the entire student body,” Faison said, “They can ask about their culture, programs, and simply ask the reps questions they may have.”
Wilmington City Council President Hanifa Shabazz said that while the event exceeded expectations, she wishes more Wilmington students could have been reached and brought to the Fieldhouse.
While many high schools were represented, it was hard for some of the schools in the city to attend, Dr. Shabazz said, adding that she’d like to see future events like this held after school or when school is closed to optimize participation. “There are so many tentacles to build off going forward, and we need the support of the business community here in Wilmington to make that happen.”
“What better tool than TV, sports, and stars to help motivate these kids?” Dr. Shabazz continued, explaining that a huge production like ESPN’s “First Take” gives students a behind-the-scenes look at how many different jobs are involved in putting the production together. “It’s almost like a career conference as well. It shows that college isn’t the only option and there are so many different career paths out there.”
The Sixers Fieldhouse was the perfect venue for the event, given its seating capacity, location near the Wilmington Riverfront, and the buzz surrounding the 161,000-square-foot multi-use building.
“This event is great for us and the city of Wilmington,” said Alex Yoh, senior director of marketing and communications for the Delaware Blue Coats. “This venue attracts people on a daily basis due to Titus Sports Training, Nemours Sports Medicine, and the various youth programs offered here. The entire event was a perfect example of entertainment and education working together to promote HBCU excellence and everybody involved is excited for what’s to come next.”