Campus visits are a highly effective recruiting tool because they allow students to experience the distinctive qualities of the university and community that cannot be fully conveyed through a website or brochure. But for high school students who can’t make the trip to Northern, perhaps the next best thing is to bring Northern to them. That is exactly what the Black Student Union did during an ambitious Oct. 18-22 recruiting bus trip that stopped at nine schools in the Chicago and Detroit areas.
“I was excited for a lot of us to go back to our old high schools and tell them how we ended up where we are and how they can do the same, or better,” said Jeulani Gahiji, co-president of the BSU. “I could see their eyes light up when we spoke about our college experience and answered their thought-provoking questions. We got a chance to do something for NMU that was never done before and we got a lot out of it. In my opinion, students talking to students has the most influential impact. We’ve already heard back from both Chicago schools saying the students loved the visit, have already applied and would be ecstatic to see this happen again. This trip will change the dynamic of the university and how we recruit, and it’s completely for the better.”
Rachel Harris, BSU adviser and director of the Center for Student Enrichment, traveled with nine members of the organization. She said the trip was a bonding experience for the group and it was rewarding to see a few students who were shy at first grow more confident in sharing their stories with captivated high school audiences.
“The NMU students are such extraordinary role models,” said Rachel Harris, BSU adviser. “They were motivating, encouraging and knowledgeable. The high school students looked up to them and could see themselves in our students. The counselors and teachers couldn’t thank us enough, saying some students who had never shown an interest in attending college raised their hands and were asking questions. We’ve been asked to come back by every school; they want this to be an annual thing. I’m proud to have been a small part of this experience.”
Both Gahiji and Harris were particularly impacted by Cody High School in inner city Detroit. The school is surrounded by burned-out and abandoned homes. Its metal classroom doors are locked and security guards maintain a highly visible presence.
“Initially, I felt that it would be a waste of time and that those kids wouldn’t care,” said Gahiji. “But to my surprise, they had a multitude of great questions and actually showed genuine interest. I am overjoyed that I got this opportunity and I hope other students in the future can do the same.”
Despite the grueling schedule, BSU members even participated in an NMU alumni event Wednesday evening at the Black Finn Ameripub in Royal Oak. Recent alumna Littia Wells, who now works in design at Ford Motor Company, joined the group for one of its high school presentations.