04/05/07 — Students get chance to see possibilities

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Students get chance to see possibilities

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 5, 2007 1:45 PM

In less than three months, a business and entrepreneurship program at Goldsboro High School is showing signs of accomplishing its mission -- helping students see possibilities for their futures, school officials say.

Granville Academy was launched in January with 39 freshmen in its charter class. Primarily for inner city youths, it exposes students to business opportunities and encourages them to achieve their goals.

In February, 30 students attended the Black Engineers Conference in Baltimore. Last month, 15 went to the National Youth Conference of Granville Academy in Trenton, N.J.

Adviser Al Southerland said he is encouraged by what he's seen so far.

"(There has been) a change in their behavior, attitude-wise toward their schoolwork and their dress, just overall pride in what they're doing," he said.

"Before we went to the Baltimore trip, we had an etiquette class to reinforce or teach the kids how to meet and greet. The first night we were there, we had a formal sit-down dinner and being able to use the eating utensils properly made a big difference."

At the Black Engineers Conference, the students met business people, engineers and representatives from several colleges, and were also exposed to such well-known personalities as singer Jennifer Holliday, actor Richard Roundtree, who played the original "Shaft," and Chris Gardner, whose story inspired the recent movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness."

"(Gardner) said, 'Don't let somebody tell you that you can't do something. You can do it if you really want to, put your mind to it,'" student Tiffany Miller said.

Tiffany said she appreciated seeing examples of what others have achieved.

"You have the staff of Granville Academy pushing you and telling you can do things," she said, adding that they help build self-esteem and confidence. "You get a chance to go out and express yourself."

Of course, it also helps if you study.

That is part of the criteria for the program, Southerland said -- attending classes regularly, maintaining a "C" average or better and adhering to behavior and dress code rules. But it goes beyond that, Tiffany said.

"If your grades are bad, you can get tutors and stuff but nobody can help you if you don't want it," she said. "It's not just going on trips and having fun. It's also about learning how to be successful."

During the New Jersey trip, the group also toured Princeton University and spoke with educators from other colleges. The contacts provided insight into what it takes to get into college, as well as possible scholarships available, Southerland said.

Student Joshua Pearson said the conversations were eye-opening.

"One thing I've learned is about better chances of getting a scholarship," he said.

As a ninth-grader, Joshua said he has learned things in the program he didn't expect -- like what it takes to own a house, earning money and making wise investments for the future.

Obadiah Speight said when he first came to high school, his only thoughts were of becoming a sports star.

"But now, I want to get in stocks and learn how to save my own money," the student said. "By the time I get out of college, I want to be able to have my own house."

Michael Langston said he wants to become a chemical engineer. Tiffany said she would like to be a nurse and care for people.

"I want to major in interior design," student Lawren Ham said, a notion that became clearer after the Baltimore trip. "I didn't know, but then I saw some people there that did designs on the inside of planes and it looked like fun."

The group meets weekly and twice a month delves deeper into the business aspects.

"This month, we will go over investing, taking them to businesses and colleges, sitting in a boardroom of a corporate office," Southerland said.

There is a sense of pride developing in the charter class, he said.

"I'm just happy I got chosen," Lawren said, before noting that with the membership comes a responsibility.

"You can't be like everybody else any more. We're like the cream of the crop. We're supposed to stick out, to be an example for others."