McKinley high school student being interviewed

FAME program provides pathway to college for African American students

For many students, the path to college can be a challenging one. From admissions tests to financial aid, it’s a complex process. For African American males in Stark County, one program is helping to make the path to college more attainable.

A roadmap to college

FAME, which stands for Focus on African American Males in Education, is a pre-college program through Stark State College funded in part by United Way of Greater Stark County. The program is available for African American male students from McKinley High School and Glen Oak High School.

“When we take on students, we make a promise that we will give them every tool they need to get to college,” said FAME Program Director Gregory Freeman. “If you ask a group of students, ‘Who wants to go to college?’ everyone raises their hand. They want to go, but they don’t know how. They don’t know how they’re going to pay for it, how they’re going to get there, or how they’re going to prepare.”

That’s where FAME comes in. The program provides students with the roadmap to success. It offers mentoring, academic support, college tours, placement testing, SAT and ACT preparation and financial aid workshops for the students and their families.

Inspiring the leaders of tomorrow

FAME brings in mentors from the community, from a variety of professions, to speak to the young men in the program. They give them valuable insight about what it’s like to go to college, share their own experiences and what they did to become successful.

“We’re a leadership program,” said Freeman, “Because not only do we want them to be leaders in our program, but we want them to be leaders in the classroom, on the field and when they go out into the real world.”

FAME provides a forum for students to talk about current issues, and it serves as a safe space to let them share. Freeman said it’s critical for students in Stark County to have an outlet like this because there is no other program like it around.

A FAME family legacy

Isaiah Carpenter, a junior in the Early College High School Program at McKinley High School, joined FAME at the end of his eighth-grade year. His older brother and his cousin both participated in the FAME program as well, and it’s become somewhat of a family tradition for the Carpenters.

Through FAME, Isaiah has toured historically black colleges and universities, and he’s learning how to prepare for the application process.

“Before FAME, I thought college was going to be a walk in the park,” he said. “I thought I could just walk into college and just succeed like that. But FAME helped me realize that that’s not what you have to do. You have to actually prepare yourself a year or two before you even head to college.”

He said the program is helping him to grow inside and outside the classroom, through its tutoring programs and leadership training. Isaiah’s family always knew he was a leader, but FAME built upon those existing qualities to help him become more vocal and confident.

“There were times in FAME where someone just needed help or needed an ear to listen, and I was that person. So that helped me to improve those skills outside of FAME and outside of school,” Isaiah said.

“When you come from a great home, and a great family, it’s kind of easy just to add to the pieces,” said Freeman, “And I think that’s what FAME is doing for [Isaiah], just adding to the pieces that he already had at home. He was already going to go to college, so it’s more of how was he going get there? How will we fund it? What would be the pathway that he would need to go to get to his dream? That’s what we’ve been doing with him.”

Isaiah’s aunt, Jenell Carpenter, whose son graduated from the FAME program, sees the value FAME provides.

“It helps [Isaiah] out with his grades. If he needs help, he goes to tutoring. They’re there when he needs them,” Jenell said.

Jenell’s son, currently a sophomore at Ohio State University, planned to go to college before entering the program, but with the help of FAME, he received more financial aid options, lists of scholarships and help through the application process. He’s now excelling in his college classes with good grades, and Jenell credits the FAME program for helping to guide him down that path.

UNITED we see a diploma in hand

Freeman said he hopes to see the FAME program continue to grow, as they reach more students throughout the community.

“Without the funding support of United Way of Greater Stark County, there would be a lot of African American males in our community, who would not get the mentorship, the roadmap to college, or the opportunity to dream big and actually realize their dreams,” said Freeman.

UNITED we see what’s possible

You can help more students like Isaiah achieve their goals by funding education programs and services in Stark and Carroll County. Make a donation today.