ST. LOUIS — When Alpachino Hogue, an MU admissions representative, spoke to 30 juniors and seniors at Soldan High School in the Union-Delmar neighborhood of St. Louis, he got their attention by telling them he graduated from Soldan only five years earlier.
The students knew they were going to meet with a recruiter from MU, but they didn’t know he would be from the world they know.
Hogue, who graduated from MU last December, is responsible for marketing his alma mater to students from his hometown. His hiring in January is part of a larger effort to increase racial diversity on campus.
It is the first time MU has placed a recruiter solely in the urban hearts of St. Louis — where 81 percent of the students are black — and Kansas City. Hogue is based at MU but travels regularly to each city.
“St. Louis and Kansas City are definitely key,” said Chuck May, associate director of admissions.
“Diversity encourages students to experience a different perspective in the classroom, in their social life and in their professional life,” May said. “With the economy becoming more globalized every day, it’s important that our students experience a broad array of ideas, opinions and perspectives to prepare them for their careers.”
MU’s freshman class this year has 4,701 students. Of this group, 22 graduated from St. Louis city schools. In contrast, 1,080 freshman hail from the mostly suburban St. Louis County schools. Although there is no official breakdown for how many of the students from either group are minorities, the urban schools have a much greater concentration of minority students.
There are 20 high schools in St. Louis County that each sent more freshmen to MU than all St. Louis high schools combined. MU officials hope to close that gap.
On Sept. 27, Hogue allowed a Missourian reporter and a photographer to accompany him to presentations at three urban high schools in St. Louis: Beaumont, Central Visual and Performing Arts, and Soldan International Studies. Here is what they saw:
Beaumont High School
In the morning, students and visitors waited patiently to pass through metal detectors on their way into Beaumont. After being admitted by security, Hogue was greeted in the school’s main office with a firm handshake from Travis Brown, Beaumont’s principal.
“This is a very astute young man,” Brown announced to the room. Before joining Beaumont, Brown was assistant principal at Soldan while Hogue was a student.
“I could remember him being a studious young man,” Brown said later. “He was a student who knew what he wanted to do.”
After a moment of jovial conversation in the office, Hogue was escorted to a vacant classroom.
A bell rang and students began to drift in, seating themselves and saving chairs for their friends.
“Hello, my name is Alpachino Hogue, but if you have any questions to ask you can call me Chino,” Hogue said. He added that he is a graduate of Soldan High School and that he grew up only a few blocks from Beaumont.
Every student fixed on Hogue as he explained ACT scores and high school course requirements.
“Do you have a nursing program?” senior Dorothy Fields wanted to know. Others expressed interest in law, choreography, pediatrics and science.
“Because we have 250 academic programs,” Hogue told them, “we’re probably going to have a program that fits what you want to do.”
He fielded questions ranging from the size of dorm rooms to interdisciplinary majors. Then, Hogue turned the conversation toward how the students could pay for an MU education.
“How many of you have taken the ACT?” he asked. More than half raised their hands.
“I want you to take it again and over and over and over again,” he said. “Here’s why: Your goal is not to just get into school, but to get as much scholarship money as you can.”
Hogue handed out information about diversity scholarships at MU — information of particular relevance to the young people at Beaumont. The student body there is 100 percent black, and 77 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Only one member of Beaumont’s graduating class of 2004 enrolled at MU this fall.
Hogue also counseled the students about how to succeed once they get to college, advising them to spend eight hours a day either in class or studying, to sit in the front of classrooms and to participate in class in order to establish relationships with professors.
Toward the end of the 40-minute presentation, a student seated near the MU view books began passing them out to his peers. Students pored over them and continued to ask questions. Is MU a safe environment, one wanted to know.
Hogue replied that he almost feels comfortable leaving his doors unlocked in Columbia and that the environment was a welcome change from St. Louis.
“I got tired of the sirens, and the murder after murder after murder,” he said. “I wanted to get away from all this chaos.”
Principal Brown said later that although he was glad to have Hogue visit, he would like to see MU become more involved in his school. “Have them come in more than once a semester,” he said. “Have seminars regarding financial aid, and videos.”
Asked about Brown’s concerns, May, the associate director of admissions, clarified MU’s recruitment efforts and constraints.
“As far as personal contact, Alpachino Hogue is going to be in the schools constantly, having personal contacts with students,” he said.
As for promotional videos, MU does not have one aimed at high school students.
“Videos cost a lot to produce,” May said. “And with the budgetary issues, it’s hard to find the money.” He added that personal contacts with students have proven to be the most effective way to reach them.
Central Visual and Performing Arts High School
After leaving Beaumont, Hogue drove four miles to Central, where he prepared for a different type of interaction. By 11:15 a.m., he had set up a table in a hall near the cafeteria with a black “Mizzou” banner bearing a tiger logo.
Two members of Central’s class of 2004 are enrolled in this year’s freshman class at MU. Sixty-four percent of Central’s students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
As lunch began, echoes of laughter and shouting filled the linoleum-floored hallway as students moved toward the cafeteria. Hogue, who doesn’t look much older than some of the students, stood out in his gray-blue suit and gold tie.
Amidst the commotion, several small groups of students stopped, browsed through view books and talked with Hogue. He reviewed MU’s admission requirements with students and asked them how many required courses they had completed.
Although he did not have the opportunity to talk to students about MU at length, Hogue was able to give individual attention.
“Call me,” he told one student inquiring about academic requirements. “I’ll help you figure it out.”
He handed his business card to most students who stopped to speak with him.
After leaving Central, Hogue shared reflections on the day over lunch.
“Everything is going pretty much according to plan,” Hogue said while waiting for his ham sandwich. After silently saying grace, he described some of his strategies for communicating with high school students.
“I try to know about a lot of different programs so I can answer questions for kids with a broad range of interests,” said Hogue, whose own degree is in advertising.
Soldan International Studies High School
Shortly before 1:30 p.m., 30 students seated themselves in clusters of four at new-looking wooden tables in Soldan’s bright, carpeted library.
Hogue began the presentation by talking about his roots at Soldan.
“I have my former journalism teacher here making sure I use the right words,” Hogue said, pointing to guidance counselor Annette Entenman, an MU graduate, who sat behind the students.
“Let’s have a dialogue, not a lecture,” Hogue said. When he asked about their career interests, their answers included law, electrical engineering and public relations.
Hogue again distributed MU view books to students, whose questions ranged from tuition costs to extracurricular activities.
“One of the crucial points for succeeding in college is to get involved,” Hogue told them. “We have about 430 student organizations on campus.” He also advised them to do their reading in advance of lectures and to create an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. study schedule.
Sixty percent of Soldan students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. When Hogue handed out information sheets about tuition costs, some reacted with incredulity.
“Thirteen thousand dollars for one year?” asked a student near the back. Her question raised murmurs. Hogue called students’ attention to the scholarship information.
The school’s afternoon announcements interrupted the discussion. When a schedule for ACT prep classes was explained over the intercom, Hogue’s voice rose above the noise.
“Try to take that if you can,” he said. “It’s very important.”
The bell rang after the announcements, dismissing students for the day. Some lingered to ask Hogue additional questions and to continue reading their view books.
“It was pretty encouraging,” said senior Alicia Davis. “It brought this school onto my list of college considerations.”