“Big Girls Go to Spelman”
Originally published summer, 2014

On a recent family vacation the Cooks family, Dr. Jamal and Charemon Cooks, took their two children to Atlanta. Their oldest child, Jamila, a first grader at Ile Omode, was comfortably resting in the back seat of their rental car when she was quizzed, as most children are, about her plans for college.

“Where do you want to go to college?”, Jamal asked. “Spelman,” she replied without hesitation.

“What about Cal or Emory (schools her parents attended)?”. “No”, she quickly responded, “I’m going to Spelman”. Surprised at their daughter’s absolute confidence and apparent early decision (by over ten years), they couldn’t help but ask, “Why?”

Staring out the window, completely unmoved by her parents’ query, she responded as if matter of factly, “the big girls go to Spelman, and that’s where I’m going.”

Apparently, the middle school college tour doesn’t just effect middle school students. After each trip, the students present to the entire school, and generally dislay their “swagger” collected during the trip.

It is a testament to the positive role the older girls (and boys as well) have on younger students, so that when Jamila takes her first Ile Omode college tour in 2019 or 2020, her parents won’t be surprised when she returns with matching Spelman t-shirts for them.

Spotlight at Ile Omode

Middle School's College Tour
College Tour to Atlanta, Tuskegee, and Birmingham in 2014

In 2014, Ile Omode took its largest group of middle school students yet on a college tour. Twenty students from 6th to 8th grade visited over 7 colleges in less than a week. Students visited Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark-Atlanta University, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Alabama State University, and Tuskegee University.

This marked the fourth college tour, and the second tour to Atlanta, Georgia and Alabama (the other two were to Washington, DC). Generally, there are two consecutive trips and then a break year to ensure that each middle school student experiences two out of state college tours before they begin high school.

Beginning in 2009 with 9 excited and anxious students (and none more anxious than the trip’s organizer), each trip has seen the numbers rise - literally in concert with the school’s growth.

The trip remains affordable to every family at the school, and the trip’s total cost in 2014 was $825 per student, which included all meals, transportation and lodging. So parents remain delighted, but it is the enthusiam of the students that continues to make these trips essential.

DeWayne Lewis (6th) was excited about visiting Morehouse College in Atlanta. “I wanted to see the school for myself since I’ve heard so much about it”. He’s now definitely planning to apply to the college.

The gravity of the middle school college tours is in the numbers; nearly 60 students have had the opportunity to experience HBCUs as well as other colleges and historical monuments that they otherwise would not have seen.

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