The young lady took the stage followed by a volunteer at the 8th annual college, career and services fair in Riverdale, a south Atlanta city in Clayton County. He helped her get to a microphone in order to announce that she was just accepted by Albany State University. Gabriel Dudley, 17, held a gold and blue Albany State mini-flag and smiled brightly. She had made her college choice known and was proud of it. 

Gabriel Dudley (left) announced that she was accepted by Albany State during the college fair.

I chose Albany State because my family is from around [there] and I wanted to go to college near my family,” said Dudley, a senior at Heritage High School in Conyers. “Plus the nursing program is really good.” College Factual, a college ranking website, ranks Albany State’s nursing program among the top 20 in the state.

Dudley only had one type of institution on her mind while applying to colleges. “I really only had HBCUs on my list,” she said. 

The college and career fair brought local students and colleges and universities from around the country into the Riverdale Town Center hall for a chance to meet and greet college representatives. The line at the Jackson State University table stretched all the way from the door. Though the school is hundreds of miles away, the popularity generated from the football program and former Atlanta Falcons and Braves star Deion Sanders helped get the attention of the students and their parents in attendance. 

Other HBCUs in attendance were Claflin University and Tuskegee University, both out of state. Other out-of-state schools ranged from the University of Pittsburgh, Ohio State University, University of Toledo, University of Miami to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all had tables at the fair. 

Nolan Shelton, 17, is staying close to home for college. Also a senior at Heritage High School, he was just accepted into Georgia Gwinnett College while attending the fair. 

For those not as interested in attending college and looking to take advantage of the career portion of the fair there were programs like Year Up. The Year Up Greater Atlanta branch was at the fair to educate young people ages 18-29 on another option to college and career moves like the military. A workforce development program that takes place in 27 states, applicants can learn how to start careers in business, finance, banking and tech, according to Corey Johnson, a representative with the 14-year old branch. “We’re giving them a career all in one year,” he said as he simultaneously handed out flyers to interested attendees. 

The program will have students in classes half the year and in the field working with companies such as JP Morgan Chase, E-Trade and Bank of America. These Fortune 500 companies are funding the program and Johnson said this is why the screening process may be difficult for some. “That’s why we ask each applicant if they are serious,” he said. 

Applicants can earn transferable college credits, health insurance through Kaiser Permanente. The next Year Up class in Georgia begins in October. 

Credit: This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.

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