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Two for touring: The LEAD Foundation's spring break college tour

NC A&T is one of the schools they will visit as part of their "northern" tour.
NC A&T is one of the schools they will visit as part of their "northern" tour.
Taken by Andrew Snorton

During the first full week of April, despite the winter weather that is either extending the school year or extending the length of each day to make up for lost time, one constant remains: spring break.

Wait Chapel is the centerpiece of Wake Forest University.  Via The LEAD Foundation's spring break college tour, this is one of a number of schools students grades 6-12 can visit.
Taken by Andrew Snorton

During this long-awaited time of the year, some may travel out of town with family and friends, while others may stay at home and catch up on some rest. But for the select few, this is the ideal time to invest in themselves and their access to resources regarding their post-high school endeavors.

In the case of the LEAD Foundation, during April 7-11, 2014, they are providing two ideal opportunities for young people (students in grades 6-12) to not only learn and explore their post-high school options, but take a good hard look at where they stand and what they need to do in order to fully realize their goals and aspirations.

"While we do our share of college-based workshops, there is nothing that can replace what we do on our college tours", notes executive director, Michael Woodward. "When students are able to visit a college campus, hear directly from admissions counselors what it takes in order to get into their schools along with the skill sets needed for success, it truly hits home".

What is even more harder hitting is up for debate: the two routes the foundation is taking, the schools they have relationships with, or the schools where they have placed their program students.

Both of the foundation's routes is taking them to multiple PWI's (predominantly white institutions) and HBCU's (historically black colleges and universities) as they focus on providing multiple tiers of access and understanding for students. Their "southern" route includes visits to schools such as (but not limited to) Florida A&M (the alma mater of Mr. Woodward), Florida State University, Dillard University, Louisiana State University, and Southern University (schools located in South GA, FL, and LA) for a total target of 8 colleges (6 HBCU's and 2 PWI's).

Their "northern" route consists of visiting schools such as (but not limited to) Wake Forest University (the alma mater of one of the board members), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina A&T, Winston-Salem State, and North Carolina Central for a total target of 8 colleges as well (6 HBCU's and 2 PWI's).

The fact that on both routes, the foundation has either former students attending a number of the schools or have been admitted to the schools lends an added sense of credibility and professionalism for the business-oriented trip.

"It is emphasized to our students and parents this is about business and making an investment in their post-high school plans; many of our board members have strong personal relationships with the schools we visit. Combine this with the performance of our former students who are doing some outstanding things here, and we want to remain dedicated in providing access to resources. It isn't about playing games", Woodward adds.

Both routes, while business oriented (students are required to dress in business casual for their official tours), provide opportunities for downtime, ranging from attending area theme parks, historical sites, and possible service projects. Doing so provides a very well rounded trip for the price ($500 per student), which includes their transportation, lodging, breakfast, and trips to the aforementioned sites and/or theme parks.

Spaces are limited, as the goal is one charter bus per route. Payments may be made online, and prior to the actual trip, the foundation is scheduling multiple meetings to go over key and essential information for the tour. Likewise, for those who are interested in sponsoring and supporting students, donations opportunities for the 501c3 entity are made available as well.

"Again, one of the things we promote is life beyond high school", adds board member Willie Cartwright. "Providing the hands-on workshops help, but being able to have this experience makes things more meaningful. The students are able to make better decisions when it comes to an important decision along these lines".

Leading the way is part of the LEAD Foundation's mantra; doing so through their college tour routes is another way they are making the investment in developing tomorrow's leaders today.

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