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Church event draws potential college students

The event was a spirited community fair with a strong message: Your future can be bright if you plan ahead.

That was the intent behind the first-ever Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal College Fair.

The college fair and block party Thursday evening in front of the church at Eighth and Adams streets was meant to encourage young people to think seriously about their future and plan for college now. A number of area institutions, including Ohio University, Marshall University and Collins Career Center, participated.

"There is so much adversity in the world today, so many things that create a negative recruitment. We want to give them positive things to do with life, particularly in the area of education," said the Rev. Melonie Valentine, pastor of Quinn Chapel.

The college fair was her idea but she was quick to praise co-chairs Jim Gordon and Jackie McAfee for taking her inspiration and giving it a local flavor.

"It might have been my idea but it blossomed," Valentine said. "They (McAfee and Gordon) took the ball and ran with it and I could not be more pleased with what they've done. The block party was their idea and it's fantastic."

"We care about the community," Gordon said. "We want to stress education and the importance of it. I realize there are not a lot of jobs around here but the better educated you are the better off you'll be."

David Crossan of Ironton was one of the young people who attended the college fair.

"I'm interested in going to college," the 15-year-old Ironton High School student said. "I think I'd like to go to Florida State but of all the ones here I think I like Marshall."

Jason Taylor, 13, and Joseph Whaley, 15, both students in the Ironton City Schools, said they were both interested in college before coming to the college fair, but this gave them an opportunity to find out more about specific schools.

Whaley said he had already been in touch with OU faculty and officials about higher education.

When they weren't collecting brochures from the various college representatives, fair goers noshed hot dogs and listened to entertainer Gyfted, a former Irontonian who now lives in Columbus.

The 2002 IHS grad said he tries to make it back to his hometown as often as he can and is pleased to take part in the college fair.

"This is a good opportunity to reach young people with a positive message," Gyfted said. "I'm out to uplift the young people."

What advice would Gyfted have for a young person who wants to follow in his footsteps?

"Keep at it," he said with a smile. "Do your homework. Study what made the guys before you succeed. And go with God because with God all things are possible. I've been working five years to get where I am now and I'm still working but it's starting to pay off. I just would encourage people to work hard."