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Lawrence students get snapshot of college life

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Last week, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to take over the “chronically underperforming” Lawrence public school system.

On Tuesday, about 100 Lawrence High School students who visited Northeastern University were encouraged to focus on their potential rather than dwell on the latest news.

“That’s a problem for the adults and the taxpayers,” said Richard O’Bryant, the director of the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute at Northeastern, which hosted the program. “Regardless of what’s going on in the system, you can still go to college, you can still be a success and you can still get a great education.

“Don’t focus on what you can’t control,” he added. “Focus on what you can do and continue to do good work and strive to be successful.”

O’Bryant’s father, for whom the African-American Institute is named, served as a vice president of student affairs at Northeastern and advocated for educational excellence at the university and throughout Greater Boston.

The goal of the campus visit was to teach students about the importance of a college education and to answer questions on topics ranging from dorm life and dining halls to the application process and college courses.

None of the high school students had ever visited Northeastern and few had ever traveled into Boston, said Northeastern graduate Jordan Clark, who teaches special education math and health at Lawrence High School through the Teach for America program.

“The hope for this trip is for you to see what college is really about,” said Clark, SSH’11. “If you don’t get an answer to one of your questions, ask and we’ll do everything we can to figure it out.”

The daylong visit to Northeastern included campus tours led by some of Clark’s friends and former classmates, a pizza lunch at the African-American Institute and breakout sessions designed for students to ask questions about college life.

O’Bryant said the campus visit showed students that hard work and dedication pay off. “This is all about you guys becoming the best people you can be,” he said. “We want you to be motivated and inspired so you can make the best possible future for yourselves.”