PULLMAN, Wash. — A total of 176 students who are considering enrolling at Washington State University’s College of Education will be visiting the Pullman campus Feb. 15-17 for the annual Future Teachers of Color conference.

The students are high school seniors and community college transfers from Washington state with grade point averages of 2.5 or greater, said Johnny Jones, the college’s director of recruitment and retention and coordinator of the program.

“Our conference has become very popular statewide,” Jones said. “We have a waiting list of 120 students who we just did not have rooms for.”

Students will be housed on campus, take tours of the campus and attend the Cougar men’s basketball game against Stanford. The students will also meet with financial, admissions and multicultural student advisers.

At 5 p.m. on Friday, the students will meet with Paula Groves, assistant professor of multicultural education. Groves will focus on the very real need for teachers of color. In Washington, the gap between the percentage of minority teachers (statewide about 6 percent) and the percentage of minority school children (statewide now about 24 percent) is widening.

“I want to be inspirational,” Groves said. “There is nothing better that we can do, for ourselves and for our communities, than to teach. Teachers make a huge difference in the lives of their students. I will encourage everyone there to think back to the persons who meant the most to them. For almost everyone, that would include a person who was a great teacher, a caring person who made a difference.”

The visit will culminate with a banquet on Saturday evening, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Compton Union Building Ballroom. The prospective students will hear from program graduates who are now teaching, as well as a welcome from WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. Regent Ken Alhadeff, former president of the WSU Board of Regents and a program sponsor, will be the keynote speaker.

The FTOC program at WSU was created in 1994 to respond to minority under representation among teachers and to provide positive role models for minority youth. Program founder Milton Lang has been appointed special assistant to the WSU president.

FTOC has become the model program in the state for recruitment of teacher-preparation students. Because of FTOC, the number of minority undergraduates in the college increased from five to more than 100. Fifteen FTOC students have graduated as teachers and are employed in Seattle, Renton, Tri-Cities and in other districts across the state.

The FTOC program has received funding from several foundations as well as the ongoing support from Alhadeff, a Seattle philanthropist. Former Bellevue music teacher and WSU alum James Taylor has endowed the program with a bequest.