OXON HILL — Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and Prince George’s Board of Education (BOE) identified a need to highlight its commitment to increasing academic excellence and college and career readiness, thereby organizing an expo that turned out admirably.
The “Passport to Success Expo” was held on Sept. 22 at Oxon Hill High School and featured more than 20 workshops, more than 35 colleges and universities, several local government agencies and businesses and a few community-based organizations.
A well-known figure of great stature in the Prince George’s County community highlighted the event with words of encouragement, motivation and helpful advice for attendees.
Wanda Durant, the mother of two-time NBA Finals MVP and Seat Pleasant native Kevin Durant, was the keynote speaker. She delivered a 30-minute speech in the opening session of the expo in a packed auditorium of engaged listeners.
Durant said she showed up to the expo as part of her loyalty to Prince George’s County’s academic community and school system.
“I came today because my sons and I are products of the Prince George’s County Public School system,” said Durant, an active and respected figure in the Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C. communities.
“I wanted to come to be a support to the school system and to speak to parents and to help them to continue to do what they’re doing – just to inspire them to continue on to be dedicated to their children and committed to their goals and aspirations.”
The motivational speaker, entrepreneur and philanthropist is actively involved in many other local community-based and non-profit organizations and said she has always held education in high esteem, particularly as it relates to her children.
“It was one of the main pivotal points in their lives. It was required for them to go on to college to have a good education, to have the aptitude required for entrance into college life. So education was very, very important,” she said, adding that the expo will have a profound impact on the families involved.
“I think the impact will be an encouragement that they (students) could continue on their journey.
“And that’s what it is, just to let them know we care, that they are important to us and that this county and its resident’s matters to us.”
The featured workshops focused on family empowerment, 21st-century learning, health and wellness, and student-focused development.
The exhibitors had representatives engaging with the students and provided them with assistance when needed.
Bianca Dean was one of the many inquisitive students who participated and thought the exhibit was meaningful. She said she had an enjoyable experience and received useful information regarding college admission.
“Talking to the colleges, I learned more about what they had to offer and scholarships, and more so what I could do to get into those schools,” said Dean, an 11th grader at Oxon Hill. Furthermore, she said she hopes to pursue a degree in English or pre-law.
Sheila Jackson, the school system’s director for the Department of Family and School Partnerships (DFSP), was one of the co-sponsors of the event. Her department worked directly with the BOE to hold the expo.
“Parents are coming feeling a renewed sense of hope in Prince George’s County Public Schools,” said Jackson of the effect of the large exhibition.
“We believe this will have an impact on parent empowerment, parent engagement on the local level in the schools and we know we will see some changes for children, some improvements because their parents are going to be better equipped.
“They’ll have more resources, have more support systems in place, they’re building relationships with the people.”
Moreover, the function was a combination of the school system’s Family Institute Conference and College and Career Readiness Summit. Jackson spoke briefly to the crowd in the opening session and addressed the expo’s central focus.
Jackson said she would meet with her colleagues to assess whether they will sponsor and hold the expo again next year.
According to Jackson, the event far exceeded the expected amount of 1,500, attracting more than 2,000 participants. She underlined what she thought to be the true essence of the expo.
“It’s about restoring the trust, building the relationships and energizing people to go back into their communities to continue this work and actually go back and be ambassadors to get other people engaged as well.”