The annual Abaco College Fair, held under the banner “Paving the way for a brighter tomorrow,” was held on November 19 at the Agape Christian School’s Grace Gym. All of the local high schools, including Moores Island and Mary E Albury of Man O War, were invited. Hundreds of senior students turned up to take advantage of the fair and receive information and guidance to assist them in making decisions about the next stage of their career. Grade 12 students were invited for the first part of the morning and were followed by Grades 11 and 10.
A short opening ceremony commenced with a welcome by Kathy Sawyer, a prayer by Principal Cecile Albury and the singing of the National Anthem. Dr Lenora J. Black, Abaco’s District Superintendent of Education, gave a short speech on behalf of the Ministry of Education. She expressed her delight in being present to share this annual, exciting opportunity which exposes the young people to the many opportunities which exist for them for further education in The Bahamas and beyond.
“This College fair provides a second lens through which to view your future. The choice is yours to take up the opportunities you are exposed to. Your future looks bright and provides real opportunities if you work hard and remain diligent in your studies; higher education is within your grasp,” she told the students.
Dr. Black encouraged the students to ask many questions and then declared the annual College Fair officially open.
Jonathan Cartwright, College Fair Coordinator, was pleased to state that this is the biggest College Fair ever on Abaco. Whereas last year 15 or 16 colleges participated, this year the number was up to 26.
Both of The Bahamas’ institutions of tertiary education were represented along with many colleges from Florida which are popular with Bahamian students since they are close to home. For those wishing to venture further afield there were also colleges from northern states such as Minnesota, New England, New York and many Canadian colleges. Canadian colleges are a popular choice for many Bahamian students, the tuition usually being slightly lower that than for US Colleges.
The students, in addition to being able to ask questions, were able to leave the fair armed with many brochures and other handouts to help them with their decisions. Some colleges, in addition to brochures, were handing out items such as mouse pads, pens, rulers and tote bags.
The College of the Bahamas’ booth was very popular with the students since COB now offers a wide range of options and is, of course, far more financially viable than going abroad. In addition to the more than 250 Associate of Arts degrees it offers, it also now offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees and even some Masters degrees. It is scheduled to become a fully-fledged university by 2015 and many new state-of-the-art buildings are planned.
Phase 1 of a state-of-the-art dormitory is already under construction with 250 rooms and also a new science complex.
The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) is also a popular choice and between 20 and 30 young people from Abaco are currently enrolled in courses there. Programs of study range from beauty and fashion trades to office, construction, electronics and mechanical trades. BTVI has a very interesting joint-venture with the New England Institute of Technology which was also represented at the fair.
“Students can attend BTVI for the first two years then transfer to New England Institute of Technology and get their Bachelor’s degree within 24 months which saves them a lot of money,” informed Mark Seltzer, Director of Admissions for NETECH. It is a hands-on college with class sizes of less than 25 students. The college also has a long-standing agreement with the Lyford Cay Foundation which offers scholarships and it also recognizes Bahamas Ministry of Education scholarships. A $5000 scholarship is given by the college to each graduate from BTV I.
Several of the colleges were participating in the Abaco College fair for the first time this year hoping to attract students from Abaco though they have participated in college fairs in Nassau and Grand Bahama in previous years and have several students from those areas enrolled. Durham College, near Toronto, was not only venturing into Abaco for the first time but this was their first time in the entire Caribbean region. Memorial University, Newfoundland and Labrador, which offers over 100 programs, was also appearing for the first time on Abaco and hoping to entice students since it has the lowest tuition for any university in Canada.
Most colleges within the United States require SAT results but one which does not is Flagler College, St Augustine, Florida. This is a small college in the oldest city in the United States with small average class sizes of 20 students. Although it does not require SAT scores it requires a minimum 3.0 GPA average. SAT scores are not required for any colleges or universities in Canada.
Many of the colleges offer unique features. Fanshawe College, London, Canada, boasts such a comprehensive campus with fine dining restaurants, shops, pharmacies etc. that one never even needs to leave. Any students graduating from this college are allowed to stay and work in Canada for three years.
Some colleges, such as Southeastern University in Lakeland Florida, offer the option of spending a night in a dorm to get a feel for the college. Lincoln Culinary Institute and College of Technology offers boot camps three times per year where students can go and experience the college to see if they will be a good fit.
The students certainly had a large choice of college and university personnel to visit and literature to pick up. They made the most of their time asking questions of the recruiters to receive as much information as possible in the time allowed and their comments upon leaving showed just how helpful they had found this College Fair to be.