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On the morning of October 20, groups of high school students ambitiously filed into the Flynn Recreation Complex to attend the 24th YMCA College & Career Fair.  Their youthful faces glowed with their hopes and dreams for the future, yearning to impress an admission’s officer or two.  Last year, the fair reached over 1,000 students from across Boston.  Over 30 colleges, universities, companies and agencies set up their booths to give information and inspiration to these prospective college students.

Coming into the exhibit hall, I could tell some of these students were intimidated by the business-formal appearances of the recruiters of the different universities and agencies behind the booths.  Most of these recruiters have a generally friendly countenance while others looked serious.  I was among the recruiters who sat behind a booth, except I wore the casual clothes of a student.  The Connell School of Nursing had its own separate booth next to Boston College.  I was there to answer the questions for anyone who was interested in the life of a BC nursing student.

The high school students whispered to each other from a distance as they intermittently steered their gazes towards a booth of interest, pondering whether or not to approach the booth.  Many of them came near my booth asking, “Is this BC?” And I tell them, “Yes, but this is the nursing school of Boston College.”  Some of them, mainly the male students, turned toward other booths upon this piece of information.

There were a few students who were genuinely interested in nursing, and I asked them to fill out a contact card.  Many of them came with a lot of uncertainty, not knowing what questions to ask.  I wanted to encourage them to think of questions, because I am certain they must have something they want to know, but they probably just needed a little nudge.  I gave them some pointers as I told them, “You guys can ask me whatever you want know, whether it’s about the food here, the dorms, the clubs, etc. I’ll do my best to answer them.”  As I encouraged each of the students who approach the nursing school booth in this manner, many of their faces lit up with interesting questions about all the facilities that Boston College offers.

I met a young man who wished to matriculate into BC, but I could tell he seemed discouraged by his academic background and grades.  He did not believe that BC would take him, and said to me, “Look, I’m just trying to be realistic, you know. I don’t think I’m good enough for this school.”  I told him that most colleges look not only at academics, but also take into consideration what students do for extracurricular activities or leadership in other areas that are not school related.  Perhaps the young man was being realistic, but I wanted to encourage him to reach for what he deemed impossible as well.

This career fair targeted mostly Black students from the Boston area, and I felt that I was able to relate to them as a Boston resident and minority. I recalled my own struggles as a high school senior and the anxiety of whether or not I will be able to get into a good college.  I wanted these students to believe that they could succeed, and that grades do not define them.  However, grades and SAT scores are often what limit these bright, young people from aiming higher, as demonstrated in the case of the youth who wanted to get into BC.

The challenges of recruiting students of color into nursing schools such as BC is associated with the fact that many of them come from disadvantaged educational backgrounds which prevents them from getting into the college of their dream.  Even if they do get in, they have the chance of dropping out due to the competitive curriculum within these schools.  In order for minorities to overcome these challenges, the nation must invest in educating those from disadvantaged backgrounds from an elementary level.  Students who are minorities also need inspiration and someone to tell them that they can succeed; otherwise it is easy for them to become discouraged and cynical.

From this recruiting experience, I had the opportunity, in the few minutes of interaction time I had with students of color, to encourage them to not give up their dreams.  I can only imagine what the nursing workforce would be like if intelligent students of color can have the chance to acquire an education from prestigious nursing schools.  The amount of compassion, understanding, and cultural diversity they bring into the workforce will undoubtedly improve patient care throughout the nation and allay many of the misunderstandings and stereotypes that are attached to minorities.