Reflections on Ferguson

08/22/2014 10:12 am ET Updated Oct 22, 2014

I don't have definitive answers as to what has gone wrong in Ferguson. My heart grieves for the family of Michael Brown. I am astounded by the local police reaction to the protesters. And honestly don't know what to make of recent reports indicating the KKK is now pledging financial support to the officer involved since "All money will go to the cop who did his job against the negro criminal," according to New Empire Knights of the KKK.

But it's a free country, right? I'm sure some would argue that if members of the community can wreak havoc on buildings and businesses to express themselves, why can't local organizations pledge support to do the same?

I know rioting doesn't solve anything. So the current wave of peaceful protests that appear to include a more comprehensive make-up of the community leave me hopeful that something can be learned from this tragedy.

I also know that as our NSCS Scholars return to campuses in Missouri and across the country in a few short weeks that they will need to confront all these issues. This is the world we adults have created for them -- to live in, to face and to improve where they see the need.

In my mind, I still have fresh memories of the "ScholarCon" gathering in Orlando in late July. We had over 1,000 high-achieving college students from across the country joining together in education and celebration.

There were African American men in discussions with Hispanic women. Gay and lesbian students shared their aspirations with those from religious institutions. Virtually every ethnicity represented among the attendee ranks all gathered together, learning from and inspiring one another. It was a glimpse into the America we all hope for.

Now, more than ever, I see why college students need to find more ways to get out of their "cliques" and interact with others. It's because the college student body often resembles the communities where students arrived from.

New, fascinating research by Lipman Hearne, a higher-ed marketing firm, gives me insights to this thought. Its study, "The Super Investigator Goes to College," captures the responses of more than 2,300 freshmen across the U.S.

It found:

• Hispanic males were much more inclined to pick a school based on where a friend is going than Hispanic females were.

• Students of color across the country reported that college fairs and emails from the admissions offices were key information sources. Simultaneously, those sources didn't even rank for white students.

• Surveyed students from the South, who will be sophomores this fall, cared more about "appealing college traditions" than did New England students, who were more focused on "international/global experiences."

• African-American males were less influenced by financial aid/scholarship awards than white females were.

• Female students with high SATs and ACTs said nearly all of their top attributes when looking for a college related to academics. Meanwhile, male students with lower SAT scores said "appealing campus traditions" and Division I athletics were attributes they desired.

The research has tons of results available for anyone to go through them, without charge. In these numbers is the story of the American college experience in the 21st century.

The numbers tell us how we are still different and unique, yet provide hope as to what we can commit to in order to embrace and understand our differences in a way that makes us stronger as a culture and a country.

As always I appeal to our high achievers to come together and figure out how to gain strength from our diversity and cultural differences, instead of it too often serving as a catalyst for fear and tragedy.

We don't need any more Fergusons.