Recruiters Come Calling For Talented Minorities

William Chin, with Flowers High School classmate Melanie Patrick, said colleges
William Chin, with Flowers High School classmate Melanie Patrick, said colleges "were definitely excited about me applying." An Eagle Scout and a Maryland Distinguished Scholar with a score of 2000 on the SAT, he will graduate as valedictorian of his class. He intends to study engineering. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

William Chin, a senior at Charles H. Flowers High School in Prince George's County, leads an exalted life. He'll graduate first in his class Thursday. He scored a 2000 on the SAT. He's an Eagle Scout and a Maryland Distinguished Scholar. He even has a Facebook fan club. It's called "William Chin and the Lovely Ladies He Knows."

It has 197 members.

Like most students at Flowers, Chin is black. But as far as colleges are concerned, he is pure gold.

An aspiring engineer, Chin has been admitted to Duke, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland at College Park, Howard, North Carolina State and North Carolina A&T. He also was admitted to his first choice: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He'll be going there next fall, he announced recently.

"I guess I have good encouragement," Chin said of his parents. He seemed mildly embarrassed by the thought of colleges tripping over each other to accept him. "They were definitely excited about me applying," he said.

Chin's story is not one typically heard when talk turns to Prince George's schools, where the truancy and dropout rates are high and test scores lag when compared with neighboring jurisdictions. But Prince George's is one of the best places in the United States to find top black students. Although Chin's father is Asian, his mother is African American, and he identifies himself as black. He belongs to the National Association of Black Engineers.

About 8,000 seniors, the vast majority of them African American, graduated from the county's public schools last year. Almost half attended a four-year college. Many students are the product of upper-middle-class, college-educated families; the median household income in Mitchellville, Chin's home town, was $84,687 in 1999, according to Census data. And motivated students can attend challenging high school programs at schools such as Flowers, in Springdale.

This makes the county a rich environment for college recruiters, who for decades have sought out talented minorities such as Chin. College officials say that diversity -- of sex, race, economic background and geography -- promotes the sharing of different life experiences as well as better and broader education for all students. It also helps some schools overcome reputations for excluding women, the poor and the nonwhite.

Women now outnumber men on many college campuses. But the diversity campaign, begun in the civil rights era, has not been entirely successful. At many schools, enrollment of black students -- particularly black men -- has declined in recent years, particularly in response to lawsuits protesting affirmative action. Last fall, the University of California at Los Angeles, where the number of admitted black students dropped from 693 in 1995 to 244 in 2006, described the situation as a crisis.

Chin, 17, is the kind of student who can cut the Gordian knot. He needs no helping hand; as a scholar, Chin has the credentials and competitive drive to get into most top schools.

"He kind of reminds me of Bill Gates," said Heather Roberts, Chin's guidance counselor at Flowers. "You know he's going to do something phenomenal."

Most of Chin's friends in the science and technology program at Flowers have been admitted to top local and national colleges. One young woman picked Wellesley. Another senior chose McDaniel College over Johns Hopkins and Vassar. Chin's classmates are going to the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of Chicago and have been admitted to the University of Pennsylvania, American University, Georgetown, George Washington, Rice, Tufts and Vanderbilt.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company