There’s no such thing as dreaming too big.
That’s the takeaway message planned by organizers of the DuPage County NAACP’s third annual College Readiness and Scholarship Fair, set for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Naperville Central High School, 440 W. Aurora Ave.
Event founder and chief coordinator LaToya Forrester said more than 1,000 turned out for last year’s fair, which was at Neuqua Valley High School.
“We’re hoping to actually double it this year,” Forrester said, adding that planners already have more than doubled last year’s 30 participating resource agencies, to 67.
As of Monday, more than 300 people had preregistered for the free fair. Advance sign-up isn’t required, but those who do register online by Wednesday will be entered in a prize drawing. Registration can be done at collegereadiness.eventbrite.com.
Naperville resident Mario Lambert, president of the local NAACP chapter, said the event can open young people’s eyes to possibilities they might not have considered before, options they might not know about because their immediate circle doesn’t incorporate the full range of choices available to them as adults. The concept is embraced in this year’s theme, “No dream deferred,” taken from the title of a composition by the late trailblazing African American poet Langston Hughes.
“The whole concept of it is we’re not going to stop dreaming and believing, no matter what the challenges are,” Lambert said. “We just see an ongoing issue of (some teens) not knowing the potential, what their options are. ... They’re not able to paint that picture as bright as maybe the next kid.”
Some do show farsighted vision, aiming for ambitious goals. Forrester said that was evident in many of the 113 essays submitted for the event — an increase of more than one-third over last year’s submissions.
“Some of their dreams were absolutely amazing,” she said, noting that one of the essayists wants to be an architect, while another shared the experience of seizing optimism in the face of homelessness.
Along with a plethora of information about how and why teens should prepare for post-high school degrees, plans for the fair include free dental exams and referrals for children age 12 and younger, provided through The Colgate dental van; free book bags and school supplies for young kids; information about General Education Development (GED) tests and other adult education options; and two seminars focused on the importance of parent groups and how to form them. Also among the two dozen seminar topics will be ways for female students to be empowered for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and the virtues of young people pursuing leadership positions.
Although the planning organization advocates for minority populations, Lambert emphasized that the fair is designed for all who can benefit from its offerings.
“We promote it to anybody who feels they need more access to opportunity,” he said.