For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by white students. Throughout elementary, middle and high school, I was never in a situation where I was not in the minority. So, when I heard about the Fisk Jubilee Singers and how they traveled the world, quickly becoming one of the most famous Black vocal groups in history, I was inspired. But it wasn’t until a few months later that I learned about what Fisk and other HBCUs had to offer. During my sophomore year of high school, Project HBCU (led by two female Baltimorians attending Hampton University) came to my high school to lead a presentation on the advantages of attending an HBCU. Thanks to those girls, I started envisioning myself at an HBCU. Now, years later, I have been given the opportunity to attend my dream school, Hampton University (The Real HU and one of the top HBCUs in the country, thank you very much). Even though the Project HBCU presentation played a huge part in my college choice, many other factors were a part of my decision.
HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) were created to offer African Americans a formal education which was forbidden at other institutions due to racial discrimination. In the early years, many HBCUs focused on providing training to help African Americans become teachers and tradesmen. The first HBCU, called The Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania), was founded on a farm in 1837. Since then, over a hundred more HBCUs have been founded, and they are a treasure in the Black community.
According to HBCUfirst.com, HBCUs consistently outperform non-HBCUs in the post-college preparedness of Black students. For example, 41% of HBCU graduates reported having an internship or a job that allowed them to apply what they learned in the classroom, compared to 31% of non-HBCU graduates. And, 55% of HBCU graduates agreed that their university prepared them well for life outside of college, compared to 29% of non-HBCU graduates. Also, HBCUs are known for offering outstanding science and technology programs. HBCUs are responsible for producing over 20% of Black students with STEM degrees. As a science major myself, this is especially important to me.
Feeling at Home
When I announced to my family that I wanted to go to an HBCU, they were so supportive. I have had the opportunity to visit several HBCUs in the past few years including Clark Atlanta, Morgan, Howard, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Fisk University. All of their campuses were amazing, and I truly felt like I belonged because for once, I was surrounded by my people - people who looked like me and shared similar experiences. However, in the end, when I stepped onto the campus of my Home by the Sea, I knew that's exactly where I belonged.
Support and community
This is one of the big ones for me. The Black community is extremely supportive of HBCUs. I have been stopped in public multiple times (while rocking my Hampton gear) to receive words of encouragement or advice. Many people are generous when it comes to HBCU students. Celebrities and alumni show their support by performing at homecomings, supporting student business ventures, providing scholarships and more. For example, Steph Curry has donated to Howard University’s Division I golf team, and Mackenzie Scott (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife) has given six HBCUs a multi-million dollar donation (Hampton received $30 million).
The celebration of Black culture
At my predominantly white high school, there were no cultural clubs like a Black Student Union, because the school administration wanted to make sure other students didn’t feel excluded. There were no opportunities for me to share and celebrate my uniqueness. I was not encouraged to embrace Black Excellence. At an HBCU, the opportunities to learn about and share culture are endless. From the Caribbean Pre-Alumni Council to the African Student Association, HBCUs strive to make Black students from all backgrounds feel included and consistently aim to instill pride in us.
HBCUs have, and will continue to, pave the way to success for many minority men and women, regardless of major. My hope is that someone reads this and considers attending an HBCU because mine has already changed my life. I am on the way to doing big things at my HBCU.