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The (Henderson, N.C.) Daily Dispatch | May 6, 2015

By Jamica Whitaker

Northern and Southern Vance were abuzz with plans for life after high school.

College advisers Tavaris Baxter at Northern Vance High and Austin Dixon at Southern Vance organized a college fair and college signing day Friday to celebrate the seniors who have made plans for the next step in their lives.

Northern started the day with a college fair where seniors proudly wore paraphernalia for the college of their choice. Southern hosted a celebration for seniors who are enrolling in college this fall or joining the military complete with a photo booth, giant board game and refreshments.

“There’s been a great turnout,” Baxter said. “It’s very important to have a spring college fair. Juniors may be applying early or this fall, and this is a good way to get their minds thinking about it now.”

Baxter and Dixon are recent college graduates helping high school juniors and seniors navigate the seas of college admissions.

They are part of Carolina College Advising Corps, a national program at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that helps low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students attend college.

Friday’s dreary weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the seniors or their celebrations.

Wearing an Elizabeth City State University T-shirt, Tiana Mosley took a photo of Niyah Sneed holding a North Carolina Central University pennant under a banner in the gym at Northern Vance.

Both seniors said they wanted to attend a historically black college or university and didn’t want to venture too far from home.

“I want to be a nurse so I looked at colleges with nursing programs,” Sneed said. “Plus my family all went to (N.C.) Central.”

Mosley said there’s an Elizabeth City State University tradition in her family.

“I want to be by the beach but not too close,” she said. “I’m going to major in biology, pre-med. I want to be a trauma surgeon.”

Southern’s Joshua Boyd said he’ll be heading to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke to major in athletic training before going on for his master’s in physical therapy.

“The distance is kind of hard for my family, but they’re happy for me,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meting new people and excelling in my education.”

Northern student Melissa Abbott will be attending Appalachian State University because it spoke to her love of nature.

“I like adventure, and App State has opportunities for being more worldly and has a more adventurous vibe,” she said. “So I think it’s home for me.”

Abbott said the nursing degree she’ll earn at Appalachian State will help her when she joins the Peace Corps after college.

But not every student at the college fair will be attending college.

Montre Evans, senior at Northern Vance, was accepted to three colleges but decided to join the U.S. Army.

“All of my family is Army, and I want to keep that going,” he said. “I want to stay in until I retire.”

Ashlyn Matthews, senior at Southern, said she’s among the first in her family to attend a four-year university and is excited to study animal science on her way to becoming a veterinarian.

“Mr. Dixon actually helped me a lot,” she said. “He’s been a great influence on a lot of us. When I got to my senior year, I hadn’t decided what I was going to do, and Mr. Dixon helped me decide that N.C. State was best for me.”

Matthews helped her peers with the photo booth and said the celebration was just what the seniors needed.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “As we continue to do this, the seniors will feel more like they’ve really accomplished something, and they have.”

Dixon said the celebratory atmosphere was his goal.

“The point of setting it up this way was so they can actually enjoy their decision,” he said. “This isn’t just another day. This is actually a big accomplishment, and I want them to celebrate it, and I want them to actually understand why it should be celebrated.”