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Strong turnout by high schoolers for FGCU tour

 Tribal students Carissa Colon and Eyanna Billie listen to details about Florida Gulf Coast University’s U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering during a visit to the Fort Myers campus Oct. 14. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)

Tribal students Carissa Colon and Eyanna Billie listen to details about Florida Gulf Coast University’s U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering during a visit to the Fort Myers campus Oct. 14. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)

FORT MYERS — More than 40 Seminole high school students received a taste of college life Oct. 14 as they explored and toured Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. The students listened to presentations about FGCU’s colleges of engineering, business, and education before they asked questions and spoke to the university’s faculty and administration.

“Our mission is about helping these kids transition from where they’re coming from into a university setting; they need an education,” said J. Webb Horton, assistant director of the Office of Community Outreach for FGCU. “We want them to have an education.”

Students visited housing facilities on campus, explored the university’s bookstore, and enjoyed a BBQ dinner as they engaged in conversation and were mentored by current FGCU students, including some Tribal members. FGCU freshman Lewis Gopher Jr. said was pleased that so many young members of the Tribe came out for the tour.

“It’s great to see them looking for something brighter in their futures and the future of our Tribe,” Gopher said.

FGCU senior Bryce Osceola was also encouraged by the turnout.

“It’s a sign that young people are getting ready to take that first step into getting their education, which is something that we as a people need and the non-Native world needs to know who we are,” Osceola said.

FGCU has an enrollment of nearly 15,000 and ranks among the top Florida universities for alumni employed or continuing their education one year after graduation, according to the college’s website. Size and facilities were among key attractions for some of the high school students.

“I thought it was interesting how they have small classes because typically you think of an auditorium,” Eyanna Billie said. “There are more privacy in the dorms here [FGCU] than FSU. I also think you can have more close relationships with professors.”

Eyanna, 16, started her college search early with hopes to find a degree catered to illustration or the graphic arts. She used her illustrative talent in a separate room while her peers watched an FGCU volleyball match at Alico Arena, which was part of the tour.

“We want to reach out to unrepresented and student populations with the purpose of exposing them to higher education opportunities and a pathway to further their education,” said Marc Laviolette, FGCU’s director of admissions. “That’s why we do this and many other activities we do.”

Ahnie Jumper, 17, is interested in early childhood education and she already had her mind made up as soon as she toured the university and saw how the dorms have single rooms.

“Overall, I thought it was a great experience,” Ahnie said. “As for education, this is one of the top schools for what I want to study.”

An FGCU tour guide sits next to Mayra Beraza as an entire classroom filled with Tribal students waits to watch a presentation Oct. 14. (Stephanie Rodriguez)
An FGCU tour guide sits next to Mayra Beraza as an entire classroom filled with Tribal students waits to watch a presentation Oct. 14. (Stephanie Rodriguez)
Jillian Rodriguez and Ahnie Jumper laugh while they pick out FGCU sweaters and shirts from the university’s bookstore. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)
Jillian Rodriguez and Ahnie Jumper laugh while they pick out FGCU sweaters and shirts from the university’s bookstore. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)
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