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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


Benjamin Banneker Introduces Colleges, Careers Early to Students

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (May 30, 2013) – “What are your most popular degree programs? How about engineering?” Holding a notebook with a pen in hand, 14-year-old DeMarco Melson was loaded with questions as he approached a desk with University of Central Missouri information and memorabilia on Tuesday, May 28. He was part of an eighth-grade class which participated in the annual College Fair at Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology in Kansas City.


DeMarco Melson, left, an eighth grader at Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy in Kansas City, was eager to learn more about educational opportunities as he approached a desk with University of Central Missouri memorabilia during the school’s College Fair May 28. Assisting him was Helen Hardiman, a retired Kansas City area educator and part-time school counselor at Banneker.

Located at 6401 Rockhill Road, Benjamin Banneker is a Pre-K (P4) -8th grade school that serves over 350 students. The urban school with a focus on technology and high academic outcomes opened in 1999 and is one of the first charter schools sponsored by UCM in Kansas City.

The university was one of a number of institutions represented at the College Fair, which included public and private institutions of higher education, as well as specialty schools representing specific trades.

School Superintendent Marian Brown said the College Fair for eighth graders is part of a week-long experience that  involves special events aimed at children at all levels in the school. Opportunities include presentations from community members and parents of children about their specific careers, presentations by health care professionals in areas such as dentistry, and a day dedicated to teachers who discussed their professional roles.

“Part of our mission is to create a high-performing student and community learning center,
Brown said, adding that the school serves an at-risk population. “That is why we endeavor to bring in many community partners and parents. We want to get our students to starting thinking about career options as early as elementary and middle school.”

Wendy Barnes, a school counselor, said school personnel realize not all students will pursue a higher education, but the school strongly encourages students to understand that “college is an option.” In addition to the College Fair, the school will also sponsor at least two college tours later this summer.

Also during the week devoted to careers, Benjamin Banneker students heard from former students who are just now beginning to pursue their higher education. Among those students is Jasmine Handy, who finished eighth grade at Benjamin Banneker in 2009, and recently graduated from Faith Academy in Kansas City. Still in the decision process, her goal is to attend a historically black college.

 Asked what message she planned to relay to students at her alma mater, her answer was simple: “Choose your friends wisely, and stay up with your work.”

Several Banneker students had an opportunity to visit UCM on May 6, according to Mike Wright, UCM’s dean of the College of Education, and Vici Hughes, director of the Midwest Center for Charter Schools and Urban Education at UCM. The students toured the campus with UCM Student Ambassadors, where they visited the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, bowled at the UCM bowling alley, and had lunch alongside university students at the Westside Market in Todd Hall.

 “They ended their visit in the College of Education's Collaboration Zone relaxing in comfy furniture and using the iPads and tablets available to UCM students,” Hughes said. “It was a fun and memorable day on campus for the JNHS (Junior National Honor Society) students.”

“They were very impressive young people and we were excited to have them here,” Wright added.