Taryan Scarborough came to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference High School Day on Wednesday with a very specific plan.
After she got through scheduled lectures at the BTI Performing Arts Center about life planning and resisting the allure of gang life, she made a beeline for a blue cloth-covered table at the end of the hall. A recruiter there had brochures, pictures, applications and the information that the Southeast Raleigh High School junior wanted.
"Howard and Hampton [universities] are the real reasons why I came," Scarborough, 17, said. "I'm still really thinking about Howard, but I have to find out about tuition and stuff today."
Dedicating a day to area high school students is also part of a very specific plan for the conference, which has just one member school in this state -- N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro.
"This is a great opportunity for students to learn about the MEAC's schools and, of course, for our schools to make some inroads," said MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas in an interview last month. "We want the MEAC to be known, for the conference to have the kind of relationship with this area that comes from producing graduates."
On Wednesday, about 1,200 North Carolina and Virginia high school students got some face time with recruiters from some of the nation's largest and most prestigious historically black colleges and universities.
The MEAC is a conference of Division I historically black universities and a single college. Its member institutions run from Delaware to South Carolina and most offer undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. They have a combined enrollment of nearly 73,000 students.
Although the league's tournament is struggling to grow in the shadow of the CIAA, its schools are not. Its member institutions include: Howard, Hampton and N.C. A&T State universities; Bethune-Cookman College; Morgan State, Florida A&M, Delaware State, Coppin State, South Carolina State and Norfolk State universities; and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
At their inaugural recruitment event in Raleigh, MEAC schools drew attention from students who aren't necessarily wedded to the idea of attending a historically black school.
Scarborough plans to apply next year to Meredith College, N.C. State University, UNC-Greensboro and UNC-Charlotte as well as a single MEAC school, Howard. After she and her parents tour her list of preferred schools over spring break, she will make up her mind.
"Where's FAMU?," Marcus Wilson, 16, said in the BTI Center's crowded vestibule to no one in particular.
Wilson, a junior, was looking for the recruiters from Florida A&M University. He is on the football team at Southeast Raleigh High School.
His sights are set on a school where he can continue playing football and earn a business degree from a school with some academic cachet. The other schools on Wilson's list: UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State.
In February, the NCAA placed FAMU's athletic program on a four-year probation that will reduce the number of athletic scholarships that the school can offer and limit the length of time its football team can practice. The NCAA's decision wasn't a deterrent for Wilson.
"It's a good school, and I think I could play, make the team and everything," he said.
Troy Quinn, assistant director of admissions and recruitment at Morgan State, said that among the school's roughly 6,000 undergraduates, about 2 percent typically come from North Carolina.
"Based on today, all the students that have stopped by to fill out one of these cards -- which says they want us to send them information -- I'd have to say we're doing pretty well in Raleigh," Quinn said.
Staff writer Janell Ross can be reached at 829-4698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.