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Twin Cities community honors champion for higher education

A Twin Cities community advocate received a high honor
A Twin Cities community advocate received a high honor 02:06

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Community advocate honored for connecting underserved youth with higher education options

With the cutting of a ribbon, the Harding High School Auditorium became the JoAnn Clark Auditorium Saturday morning.

"I was so surprised at how many people showed up," said Clark.

It's all to honor the woman who started what would become the Thinking Career and College Early Fair more than 20 years ago, inside a church.

"That was the first time I'd seen Harding Auditorium full with people who looked like me," said Clark.

Clark has helped more than 1,000 students put a focus on their futures, assisting with tours of Historically Black Campuses and Universities, with 80% of those students going on to higher education.

In her 35 years of service, Clark has helped raise more than $1 million, to ensure students can afford the college tours.

"What makes my tour different, even if the kids do not have that 2.0 on up, I will take kids who have a 1.5," said Clark.

Fittingly, HBCUs were numerous at Saturday's job fair.

Benilde-St. Margaret's Juniors Judah Johnson Nixon and Raphael Johnson Nixon were at Harding Saturday, checking out their options. The twins said HBCUs provide a different, family-like atmosphere, in comparison to their predominantly white private school.

"FAMU is one and then Hampton University is also one," said Judah Johnson Nixon. "I want to go into the science department."

"From the beginning, HBCUs were the only places that our people could attend, and I think they helped so many people find their ways in a world that doesn't treat them right or treat them the same as others, and it gives people those same networking advantages that they wouldn't be able to find other places," said Raphael Johnson Nixon.

For Clark, it's about closing educational disparities and giving opportunity to those who wouldn't ordinarily receive it.

"Those kids lives have changed and now they're probably your doctor, or your lawyer. You probably just don't know it," said Clark.

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