JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of Duval County students were accepted into colleges this week. The University of North Florida partnered with Duval County Public Schools to bring colleges and universities to local high school campuses.
Decision Days interviews are conducted and students find out if they are accepted on the spot.
At Ribault High School, Marcus Tolbert said he will be the first in his family to go to college.
"Maybe some see themselves as being a dope boy, some see themselves going to jail, some just don't want to go to college," said Tolbert, who applied to Bethune-Cookman, one of the 17 colleges and universities that sent representatives. "It'll help me understand what I need to do and learn to get into bigger schools and apply for more scholarships."
It was a constant celebration as more than 200 students were accepted to college and offered more than $5 million in scholarships on the spot.
"It's very difficult because if you need help, my parents don't know what to do," said Autumn Thomas-Austin, a senior who said she would also be the first in her family to go to college.
She says this event really helps her understand how the process works and saves money. Each student's application fee was waived during the event, but there are also other issues that may keep students from furthering their education.
"It is hard, and it's hard work to continue on despite being broke or struggling financially or a lot of people get discouraged by the fact that they'll be in debt after college," said UNF graduate student Katelyn Quast, who helped run the event and who, like many of the high school students, was the first in her family to go to college. "I do feel empowered, I have my diploma hanging up on my wall and I went to my dream school."
Many of these students are still on the fence about which college they want to attend, but they say this event has opened their eyes to different opportunities.
"I can go to school, I can do this... I have a chance, that's how I feel," Tolbert said.