Clark Atlanta University and Eckerd College Upward Bound historic 1974 recruitment project

(L-R) Upward Bounders: Lorraine Blossom, Marshall Lester (honorary), Kenny Leon, Dr. Katurah Jenkins-Hall, Thomas Pittman, David Davidson

BY SEVELL BROWN, Contributor

ST. PETERSBURG — The program director, coordinator of counselors, administrators, professors, counselors and college tutors at Florida Presbyterian College, which became Eckerd College in 1979, took great pride in working to enhance and improve the academic skills, vocabulary and numerous assets of youth.

Throughout the youth’s time in the program, they were prepared to matriculate successfully into collegiate ranks. The program became known as Eckerd College’s Upward Bound.

In the spring of 1974, the coordinator of counselors of the Upward Bound program oversaw hundreds of students as they traveled to Atlanta to meet with the Director of Admissions Clifton Rawls and Marian Wilkes, director of Financial Aid at Clark Atlanta University (CAU).

The meeting was pre-arranged, and both administrators were ready to review and take executive action on what amounted to a three-hour recruitment session for Clark Atlanta University.

Upward Bound coordinator of counselors delivered 33 folders of applications and transcripts of St. Pete students that earned the highest-ranking scores on their SATs and 3.2 – 4.2 grade point averages in their senior year. Most were Upward Bound students.

Rawls and Wilkes were so overwhelmed and immensely impressed with the academic excellence and credentials of these students, who were to graduate in a few months from their respective high schools, that all 33 student applications were approved for admission.

Wilkes then granted full academic scholarships to the students who qualified: Dr. Cyd Campbell, Thomas Pittman, Dr. Katurah Jenkins-Hall, actress Dr. Angela Bassett and others.  Dr. Kenneth Leon, Rory Staten, Lorraine Blossom, David Davidson, Sharon Hazely, Vernita Mobley, Shelia McDonald, Alvin Porter and others were granted full financial aide packages.

The 33 students were processed into CAU that spring morning.  This marked the first time in CAU’s history that the highest number of students from one city in a single year or semester entered CAU from a city outside of Atlanta.  Jenkins-Hall opted to attend the University of South Florida and Bassett chose Yale University.

The students of CAU were profoundly perplexed as to why they kept bumping into so many different students from St. Petersburg and how they got into CAU.

Many of the parents of the 33 students, who were graduates of other HBCUs, wanted their children to attend their alma maters and follow in their footsteps. They were not entirely happy with the recruiter responsible for their children going to CAU.

They gave the recruiter hell.  Some of these parents and grandparents were principals, educators, businesswomen and men who were a force to be reckoned with in St. Petersburg and proud alumni of their respective universities.

The coordinator of counselors took all these reprimands with a sense of joy and satisfaction knowing that these students would now be geographically positioned to study in what is still hailed as the black Harvard, Boston College, MIT and Tufts College of the South: Clark, Morehouse, Spelman, Morris Brown, Atlanta University & ITC.

As the coordinator of counselors, who spearheaded the CAU Upward Bound Recruitment Project for Pinellas County, I couldn’t be prouder!

During a meeting with President Vivian Henderson, Ph.D. of CAU, who was appointed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson to many presidential commissions, congratulated and applauded this Upward Bound recruitment project as a historical moment in CAU’s history.

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