By Chelsea Wiggs
JU Communications Major
First Coast High School student Kiana Moore’s recent Learn2Earn week-long stay on JU’s campus gave her the type of instruction she can’t get in a textbook.
“It was a great learning experience,” she said. “It helped me develop my skills by getting to talk to people.”
Moore and more than 50 local students spent time on Jacksonville University’s campus at daily seminars and in group activities, learning about real-life topics such as applying to college, getting financial aid and learning proper public-speaking skills.
The Learn2Earn week, now in its second year, is an initiative of Jacksonville Mayor and JU alum Alvin Brown to inspire students to further their educations. Funding comes from private and business donors. Activities are led by volunteers from the community and professionals such as Jacksonville Acting Education Commissioner Cedric Cruse, who oversaw the week’s events.
“My goal is to have 50 percent of Jacksonville with a college degree, and I want a 100 percent high school graduation rate,” Brown said at closing ceremonies July 26 at JU’s Terry Concert Hall. “It’s going to be helpful to our city in the future, for generations to come, to allow us to compete in a global economy and attract and attain the talent, but also having future leaders, and that’s what this is about.”
The Learn2Earn students, many of whom will be first in their families to attend college, stayed in JU dorms and maintained a schedule similar to that of a typical college student.
“I liked that I actually got to experience how it felt to be on a college campus,” said Aniah Jackson, who will be an Atlantic Coast High School senior.
The week also provided a unique opportunity for the group to take a trip to Daytona Beach to tour Daytona State College and Bethune-Cookman University. During the few hours at Bethune-Cookman, the ambitious students made such a great impression on their tour guide, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, that he was inspired to contribute to the organization.
“He was so impressed with the group that he spoke to his chapter president and asked if they could donate to the Learn2Earn program, so they’re looking to do that as well as create a scholarship for Learn2Earn,” said Cruse.
The Learn2Earn event also helped instill confidence in the students by providing them with positive reinforcement and a strong support system.
Twins Korté and Korton Moore, 16, took the stage prior to the closing ceremonies to express their gratitude for Learn2Earn, Cruse, their peers and mentors during the week, and the impact the experience had on them.
Before the students were presented with their certificates on the final day, they were reminded that the end of the week did not mean the end of their relationship with Learn2Earn. Cruse reassured the group that they had the full support of not only himself but of Brown and the entire Learn2Earn organization.
“Don’t hesitate to call if we can do anything for you,” said Cruse. “Our contact with you doesn’t end today; we want to track you guys through your high school career. When you apply to college, get into college, whatever you want to do after high school, the first thing we want is to be along with you … and prepare you for whatever that next step is, be it trade school, military, college, whatever – we want to be there with you.”