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Student survival is name of game

A community group made up mostly of black parents and students held a survival summit Saturday to help the college-bound plan a road map.

The summit included motivational speakers, college readiness workshops and a pitch from one of the top recruiters from Florida A&M University.

Among the messages to the audience at Inverness Primary School was this: Preparing a student for college requires almost as much involvement from the parents as from the student.

That is even more true if the student is black.

With only a fraction of Citrus County's black students qualifying for placement in gifted education programs and upper-level math courses at the middle and high school level, parents need to take a more active role in the development of their children to prepare them for college, said one of the speakers.

Using the topic "Parents as Educational Advocates," Inverness resident Mercedia White urged parents to become involved in the public school system.

"This means attending a parent conference every nine weeks. It means having your child study for two hours every day. You have to create opportunities for students," White said.

She recommended that parents purchase a complete set of textbooks every year for students to keep at home. Because of textbook shortages, students are not always allowed to take them home.

White referred to a study that showed Citrus County's public schools do not include many blackstudents in gifted education programs and upper level math classes. Black enrollment in these programs is often 3 percent or less.

When asked if that made her angry, she said, "No, it makes me motivated."

The group of about 35 parents and students at the survival summit also heard from Randolph Slaughter, director of high school and community college relations at Florida A&M University.

Slaughter said the school's recent accomplishments included exceeding Harvard's recruitment of National Merit Scholars.

"We also put together the mock trial team that was rated third in the nation. Considering we don't even have a law school, that's pretty good," Slaughter said.

He also reiterated that students need discipline, desire and parental support, which he called "tough love," in order to succeed at colleges like Florida A&M.

"The best students that come to our school are from small towns like Inverness," Slaughter said.

Students also attended workshops conducted by Derryl Benton, director of small business administration at Orlando International Airport; Robert Mobley, a guidance counselor from Hernando County schools; Linda Watkins, a business analyst from Florida Power Corp.; and Citrus County teachers and administrators Alice Rawls, Doris Dabney and Effie Alexander. The workshops focused on topics like job readiness, requirements for high school, financial aid and computer literacy.

The survival summit was the first organized effort by the community group Raising Educational Awareness and Participation.