"Take opportunities that you're presented, even though you may not know if you can do it," she said. "Because you never know who is holding that door open for you and who is ready to open the next door down the hall, and the next door and the next door.
"You never know unless you try."
'A long way to go'
Local colleges and universities are stepping up recruiting efforts and adding services for underrepresented students.
This school year, Miami University hired a full-time urban recruiter to focus exclusively on Ohio's urban cores "to really begin to debunk that perception that a Miami education is out of reach," said Michael Kabbaz, associate vice president for enrollment management.
"We have a long way to go on our diversity efforts, but we've made progress," Kabbaz said. "If we don't build an environment by which we have diverse conversations in the classroom, then we're really doing our students a disservice."
Clark State Community College this fall will launch a new mentor program, and has 100 percent commitment from black male students on campus to participate as mentors, said Corey Holliday, director of admissions.
Sinclair has an Urban African American Mentor Program, Wittenberg University has a Connectors mentoring program to help students academically and socially adjust to college life, and the University of Dayton has a mentor program pairing multicultural freshmen and upperclassmen called PEERS.
Tiara Jackson, a black UD freshman from Rochester, N.Y., said her mentor, Miracle Reason, a sophomore from Dayton, helped her feel more comfortable on a campus that has a minority student body of 8 percent.
"It is kind of intimidating coming to a school where its majority people who don't look like you," said Jackson, 19. "Sometimes you don't know if you'll be able to relate."
To help students relate, UD's Office of Multicultural Affairs provides success specialists, study tables and a new mentoring program with faculty and staff, said director Patty Alvarez.
Small schools, like Urbana University, can sometimes make students feel more at home because of their size.
"The joy of being as small as Urbana is we get to have those one-on-one interactions with all of our students," said Mitch Joseph, director of campus life at the school, which has 1,332 students. "What we really try to foster is that family atmosphere."
Central State University, one of the area's two historically black universities, enrolls the highest rate of students from Ohio's urban, high-poverty schools than any public institution in the state.
Dean Phyllis Jeffers-Coly, said Central State serves a critical role in getting minority students into and through college.
"We do provide the supports for students who may need academic supports," she said.
Brown could have quit many times along the way.
She graduated from Chaminade Julienne High School in 2003 and has maintained a full-time job since then. She scraped up enough money to take college courses at night while still working during the day.
Most nights she is in class until 9 p.m.
Brown admits the schedule is tiring but she tries to "look at the bigger picture." She said she is motivated to finish her degree by the Latino Dayton high school students she volunteers to mentor through the League of United Latin American Citizens.
"I see these kids and I see so much potential in them" she said. "Because we're the fastest growing minority population, I feel like people need to take a look at that and respect that. And we have to come up and succeed and do better than our parents." --
Degree attainment for working-age Ohioans by ethnicity group
White: 36.4 percent
Black: 24.13 percent
Hispanic: 22.58 percent
Asian: 69.28 percent
Native American: 29.58
Source: Lumina Foundation
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