The Ivy Center for Education, Inc. recently completed its 2013 College Tour, which saw 36 local students and their 11 chaperones go from Pine Bluff to 11 colleges and universities in five states plus the District of Columbia over a 10-day period in June.

The Ivy Center for Education, Inc. recently completed its 2013 College Tour, which saw 36 local students and their 11 chaperones go from Pine Bluff to 11 colleges and universities in five states plus the District of Columbia over a 10-day period in June.

Led by Mattie P. Collins, the intrepid president of the Ivy Center, the tour also included numerous opportunities for cultural enrichment.

Cameron Withers will be a Pine Bluff High School junior in August and speaks with a subdued confidence and obvious intelligence.

“I liked the experience of visiting the different campuses,” Withers said. “They all pretty much had the same academic environment but what made each one different were their social environments. I really liked seeing those differences.”

When asked which campus he thought best matched his personality he had three finalists in mind.

“I liked North Carolina A&T University, Rutgers and Georgia Tech,” Withers said. “I want to major in business.”

When asked where he felt most at home he selected North Carolina for that honor.

“When we were in New York one of the cashiers at a restaurant asked if we were from down South because I guess they heard our accent,” Withers said. “North Carolina was like home away from home. Nobody asked us about our accents.”

Leah West will be a PBHS sophomore this fall.

“I think the college tour was a great experience,” West said. “I thought the most meaningful part of it for me was visiting the African Burial Grounds in New York City. I didn’t know that so many slaves were buried there. Both of the tour guides were really good.”

West said her favorite campus visit was to Spelman College in Atlanta.

“I really liked Spelman,” West said. “I wondered why Spelman and Morehouse were so close together and then I found out that the boys are at Morehouse and the girls at Spelman. At first I thought it would just be girls.”

Kaya Griffin will also be a PBHS sophomore in August.

“It was a very educational experience and I learned a lot,” Griffin said. “I enjoyed getting to go to the museums.”

Griffin feels that Howard University in Washington is a good fit for her.

“I liked the tour our guide gave us of the Howard campus,” Griffin said. “The campus really fit my personality.”

Kimberly West is Leah West’s mother and served as a chaperone.

“I think this was an awesome opportunity,” West said of the tour. “Most kids don’t get to see all of these schools. It is great that the Ivy Center provided a trip that was affordable for the students. I enjoyed learning how many of the colleges and universities worked together to let each other’s students take classes at the schools.”

West said that Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta have this system.

Chandra Griffin is Kaya Griffin’s mother and was also a chaperone.

“I’m thankful to the Ivy Center for giving the students of Jefferson County the opportunity to explore and to be exposed to different things and see what else is out there,” Griffin said. “I think I enjoyed it more than the kids did. I was exposed to different things too.”

Several seniors on the trip had comments about their experience.

“I learned so much history on this college tour and met so many interesting people,” said Dollarway High School student Justice Holley, who plans to attend Spelman College and major in medicine.

“I really enjoyed the cultural enrichment activities and each campus that we visited,” said Crosset High School student Kahmron Hymes, who plans to attend the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and major in agriculture.

“The 2013 college tour was a great experience,” said PBHS student Courtney McCoy, who plans to attend UAPB or the University of Central Arkansas and major in criminal justice. “I gained lots of knowledge and met so many new friends.”

“We are about promoting excellence in academics and character,” Collins said of the motivation behind everything that the Ivy Center does. “When students are given a sense of self-worth they are less likely to engage in negative activities. We love the kids and everything we do is for student success.”

The group visited Fordham University in New York; Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.; Howard University in Washington, D.C.; North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.; North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C.; Duke University in Durham, N.C.; Spelman College in Atlanta; Morehouse College in Atlanta; Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta; and Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala.

Cultural enrichment activities included visits to the African Burial Grounds National Historic Site and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York ; the Smithsonian Holocaust Museum, the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington; and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The Ivy Center for Education is a nonprofit organization that Collins said is devoted to improving the Pine Bluff community one student at a time through mentoring, character building, tutoring, modeling and service.