Behind the Scenes at a National College Fair

I helped park buses for the National College Fair held in NRG Park this week. It is a pretty thankless job (to anyone except fair organizers) that requires above average patience sometime.
The day started with a drive into Houston on Highway 59. I am not sure why anyone making that drive needs to drink coffee in the morning. The log jam of cars was avoided because I started very early. The downside is that there were only two cars in the parking lot when I arrived and they were NRG staff.
Soon the entire area around the arena was buzzing with excitement. College representatives carted promotional materials into the hall by the box-load and other volunteers prepared for students to arrive.
The first bus was from Channelview ISD and it arrived 90 minutes early. For the next three hours buses rolled in almost non-stop and my team scurried onto each of them with maps of the venue and suggestions about how the students could get the most out of their experience. My first surprise was learning that schools as far away as McAllen and Del Rio had signed up to attend.
My second, pleasant surprise was the number of Black and Latino students in attendance. That was one of the most encouraging things I have witnessed in a long time. From my small corner of the world, the number of minority students interested in college seemed practically nonexistent. Even though the 5,000 kids I saw are a very small percentage of all the high school students in this country, knowing that this kind of opportunity is available to all these students gave me a good feeling.
I had plenty of positive encounters throughout the morning, but the most encouraging was a standoff between me and a frazzled chaperone. They had just confirmed that all 70 students were present and accounted for and headed for the bus. The problem was that they did not intend to use the designated walkway. I stopped them and the chaperone complained that the buses were right over there. She had no intention of walking the sixty feet back to the crosswalk with 70 students in tow. That is when a tall, rather plain looking student came to my aid. He said, “Let’s just do what the nice man asked us to do so we can go home.” I could tell by the look on all the faces that this was not his typical behavior but it worked like a charm. I gave him a pat on the back and said, “You’re a good man,” as they departed in the right direction. That potentially nasty encounter actually made my day. This is why I love my job. I see hope in our youth that the TV cameras and newspapers can seldom find.

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