For many, the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, is more than a spiritual institution. Under the leadership of its senior pastor, the Rev. Gary V. Simpson, the varied ministries reach out to communities near and far to provide services that often go unnoticed.

The Sisterhood Ministry, known for its vast investment in youths, invited representatives from several colleges and universities to discuss admissions, academic programs, campus activities, financial aid and other areas of interest with parents and high school students at a college fair held in the church’s Memorial Hall Saturday, Nov. 1.

The Sisterhood Ministry’s scholarship committee has demonstrated an unwavering concern about students’ academic, emotional and social preparedness for college and post-secondary education. The youth minister, the Rev. Shakeema North, Sisterhood Ministry President Wanda Mealing and members observed that there is a strong correlation between the number of remedial courses students are required to take and the probability of them dropping out of college, so they collaborated on this much needed major project to support youths as they transition from high school to post-secondary education.

Research has shown that more than half of Brooklyn’s high school graduates need more than four years to complete their college degree. Meanwhile, 53 percent of Black students cite peer pressure, violence and teen pregnancy as some of the major reasons for not finishing. Yearly, 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the U.S. That is a student every 26 seconds or 7,000 every day. High school dropouts earn $200,000 less than high school graduates over a lifetime and almost $1 million less than a college graduate. Among African-Americans, 42 percent drop out of college, and to compound this, a child is arrested every 24 seconds in the U.S. These startling statistics made Concord’s college fair and workshops vital to the survival of future generations.

The fair’s co-chairs, Gloria Buckery and Christina Rudisel, remarked that students seem not to have clear plans for how to pay for a college education, in part because of a vague understanding of how to access grants and loans. Therefore, for the next several months, Sisterhood members such as Daria Benson and Shanecquea Williams will help facilitate workshops at Concord focusing on essay writing, financial matters, understanding the application process, researching colleges and universities, interviewing skills and SAT preparation. An assessment indicated that these are areas in which the average high school graduate is not well versed, and every attempt will be made to reach out to neighboring schools for participants.

The response from colleges and universities to the Sisterhood’s fair was astounding. In attendance were Cornell University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Hunter College, Long Island University, Morehouse College, Morgan State and New York University. Each college representative engaged in talks with the students who stopped by their information tables. One could not help but notice the gleam in students’ eyes. Today, students knew that they were special and the encouragement inside outshone the damp, gloomy weather outside. The teens just kept coming!

North said, “Youths at Concord are influenced by who they see in the church, and we guide them in terms of what is needed. There are not too many college fairs in Bed-Stuy, and Concord is providing what the community needs. Next year, Concord will expand to invite trade schools and offer those who do not plan to attend four-year colleges an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”

The Uncommon Collegiate Charter School attended with more than 20 students. Teacher Jade Harriel said, “My school is partnering with the Concord Baptist Church so that students can perform community service at the Concord Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center and the Concord Clothing Exchange.”

This fair also made quite an impression on 9-year-old Jordan Moore, who was in attendance with an older brother. Jordan eloquently said, “I am here because I want to learn more about what to experience in life and choose the right college for me. I specifically chose Penn State University because of their writing program and because a lot of people who went there became successful. I want to learn different skills for life.”

Such wisdom from the youngest participant reinforces that inconvenient truth that not all youths have succumbed to the negative stereotypes that supersaturate the media. There are many African-American youths in communities eager to rise and participate in the competitive challenges that will prepare them for the global society. Concord is committed to excellence for our youths and is taking the lead in the challenge to engage them in a wide range of activities. With the Sisterhood Ministry at the helm, our youths are in good hands.