Planning for college can be an intimidating task for a young person, especially if you come from a family or a community with little resources and no networks. The first annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Readiness & Success Summit will be held on Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Predolin Humanities Center at Edgewood College to help students get those collegiate resources they need.

“It can be daunting for young people. Obviously, I have a lot of conversations in my line of work and talk with families all the time. They just don’t understand it,” Derek Johnson, executive director of undergraduate admissions at Edgewood College, tells Madison365. “I live it day in and day out so I definitely understand it but I was once in a position where I didn’t understand any of this at all. So it’s kind of ironic that I’m on the other side of the table doing whatever I can to make sure that every student who wants to go to college has the information and resources they need.”

Derek Johnson, executive director of undergraduate admissions at Edgewood College

The inaugural MLK College Readiness & Success Summit is designed to help students navigate the college admissions and financial aid process before college, but will also give students the important information and resources they will need once they are in college.

“I’m very excited about this event. We all know that there are some information gaps within our community and I think it’s our collective responsibility to work together – and that includes institutions of higher education, community members, local non-profit organizations – to try and help students who are eager and excited about going on to college and to make sure they really have the tools that they need,” Johnson says.

The 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Readiness & Success Summit will be hosted by The College Station, the Edgewood College Undergraduate Admissions Office and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion along with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Madison Alumni Chapter and the Urban League of Greater Madison.

Derek Johnson’s The College Station seeks to expand the educational pipeline and improve access to higher education resources for historically underrepresented students.

Johnson was named the 2016 Wisconsin Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC) Admission Professional of the Year which recognizes and honors college and university admission professionals who exemplify excellence and dedication to serving the needs of students in their transition from high school to college. Through all of his work with students and families, this is the first time he has attempted to organize a College Readiness Summit.

“We’ve been working on this event for quite some time now,” says Johnson, who is co-chair of the MLK College Summit Planning Committee along with Tony Garcia, Joe Maldonado, and Dulce Maria Danel. “The overall goal is to really to equip students and families – particularly underrepresented students, students of color, first-generation students, low-income students – with the tools and the resources that they need to really be able to navigate the college search and admissions process.”

Jamaal Eubanks

A group of great community folks will be presenters at this summit including Johnson; Joselyn Diaz-Valdes, Senior Financial Aid Advisor at the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) at UW-Madison; Walter Williams, school counselor at Verona Area High School; Dr. Lauren Lacey, associate professor of English at Edgewood College & Tony Garcia, executive director of Diversity, Edgewood College; Jamaal Eubanks, Ed. Director of #FuelOrCrutch; Tommy C. Walls, Jr., MSW, Senior Director of Programs, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County; Sal Carranza, president of the Latino Education Council, Inc.; Dr. Gerardo Mancilla, Director of Education Administration and Leadership at Edgewood College; and Tyrone Cratic Williams, interview coach.

“We have about 10 different speakers lined up. We’ll have a couple of main sessions along with breakout sessions that range from how to pay for college, how to find the right fit to make the college decision,” Johnson says. “There will be sessions with tips on writing personal statements and essays and sessions on how to help students learn self-advocacy skills and empower them.”

Dr. Gerardo Mancilla

The summit will also be workshops on selecting the right major, financing a college education, a college journey panel, time management and study management skills and more.

“We’ll have a workshop to help students find local scholarships, as well as national scholarships, and what you need to do to prepare for those scholarships,” Johnson says. “We also will have a session for our undocumented and DACA students.

“The presenters are such great resources and advocates for the students,” he adds. “We are excited about our line-up.”

Students are encouraged to get a start on college planning by registering for this educational summit in honor and celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and advocacy for equal opportunity. The 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Readiness & Success Summit will be one of many planned MLK events that weekend to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.

“We wanted to do something that really recognized and honored Dr. Martin Luther King and his advocacy for equal opportunity for all,” Johnson says. “We felt like it was fitting to do it in his honor.”

High school students of color, first-generation students, and parents are encouraged to attend. Johnson himself has been a low-income, first-generation student pursuing higher education so he knows many of the barriers that students face.

“It’s really the time to turn things around and to really work to empower our community,” Johnson says. “We will have plenty of great resources at this event but beyond this one-day, inaugural event, we want to keep tabs on the students and be a resource for them year-round where they can ask us any questions they might have. It’s all going to start with this big event. I would love to see this become an annual event.

“We’ve had a great response so far from students. There’s been a lot of excitement in the community,” he adds. “This is just a start to some of the things that we want to do later on down the road.”

The 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Readiness & Success Summit on Saturday, January 13 from 9:45am-2pm. Lunch will be provided for summit participants. Space is limited, so please register today! Register here.

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.