Kansas University rolled out its red carpet to “townies” on Thursday, inviting top academic performers from Lawrence’s high schools to join KU’s chancellor, other KU and civic leaders, and KU students from Lawrence in the hopes of enticing some of the potential recruits to stick around Lawrence when they choose a college.
Students performing in the top 20 percent of their sophomore or junior class at Lawrence High, Free State, Veritas Christian School and Bishop Seabury Academy were invited to KU’s Spooner Hall for some food, mingling and an opportunity to hear about how KU markets itself to students in the city they all share.
It was a new event for KU, and about 300 people, including about 100 high school students, took the university up on the offer. KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the university already enrolled about 1,200 students from Lawrence.
“I think we’ve kind of taken it for granted” in the past that students from Lawrence would find their way to KU, Gray-Little said. “We want to make sure you always feel welcome.”
After the speeches, many of the high school students said the messages they heard from the university students there were what really stuck with them. For their part, the university students did their best to dispel the notion that coming to KU would feel just like moving to a new school down the block.
“Going to KU is like living on another planet,” said Libby Johnson, a KU senior who attended Lawrence High School and who served as KU’s student body president this past year.
“And then when you need to get your laundry done, your old home is really not that far away,” she added later.
Those sentiments seemed to match the concerns that several in the audience expressed about KU.
“It’s not that I hate it here,” said Zoe Reed, a junior from Lawrence High School. “I love it here.”
But still, she said, there’s that desire to blaze a new trail and experience new things. She’s still leaving her college options open for now, but she liked what she heard the students say Thursday.
Logan Bannister, a Free State junior, probably didn’t need too much convincing. He’s considering Stanford and KU, but admits he’s “always wanted” to go to KU.
“I wanted to stay in Lawrence, but I don’t want to have the same experience,” he said. “Hearing that from the Lawrence students was really encouraging.”