This past week, I took my two youngest kids, 13 and 16 years old, to visit a few Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). I had several people ask me why I took them at their age and why did we only visit HBCUs. Before I go into my explanation, here is some background for those who never heard of them.
Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of secondary education that were established before 1964 with the intention of primarily educating African Americans. “White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities”. 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2008-04-23. Most were founded around the Civil War era and post-Civil War to educate freed slaves who desired an education. HBCUs graduated various prominent African Americans in all fields of study as well as famous athletes and politicians. Some notable individuals who attended HBCUs are Steve Harvey, Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.
Even though I graduated from University of Maryland, University College, I attended Hampton University my freshman year. I loved Hampton but I loved partying much more, so I was sent home on academic probation. My parents decided to teach me a lesson and I was made to pay for college. I missed Hampton terribly and was sad I could not live out my Hillman fantasy on that beautiful campus.
Since I am not an HBCU graduate, I really want my kids to have the experience of attending one. Hubby is a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and he has been bombarding them with his memories of the “good ‘ol days” on the yard, at step shows and the like. Even though my kids are only 13 and 16 years old, I felt like I had a responsibility to expose them to their potential future and their ability to create memories of their own. They could feel their dad’s energy from his stories, but I felt like there is nothing like being there; hence, taking them on HBCU tours.
I decided to take them this early because I want them thinking about this now and I believe it plants the seed early about the reality of what’s next after high school. It’s easy to talk about going to college but to never set your foot on one until you are in your senior year, seems like it can be overwhelming for parents and their kids. I believe in starting them young and my kids know that college is not only a dream, it’s the plan for their lives.
This list is not complete but it gives you an idea of my reasons:
- Culture – I love Black People. Whether they are in the islands or here in the USA, I love my people. When on the HBCU campuses my kids were welcomed by people who look like them. Each tour guide pointed out the rich history of their school and the way their previous students navigated the Civil Rights Era and more. The history of my people was shared with my kids and you could tell each guide believed and felt what they were saying.
- Family Environment – Every tour was genuine and we felt like we apart of the family. Since most HBCUs have smaller student bodies, my kids won’t just be a number. We visited campuses who had student bodies no larger than 8k so they didn’t feel overwhelmed with the walk from the dorms to the buildings where classes are held. I want them to have a sense of belonging and ownership of their campuses. My goal as a mom is that they stay connected and graduate.
- Support – I cannot express the amount of support each school gives to not only their current students but to incoming freshman as well. We had professors stop us and engage the kids in real conversation about their interest. This impressed me so much. As a mom of an African American son, I felt that it was so important for them to hear from those who are living on campus, what that experience is like. From getting yourself up for class to buying books, my kids were educated by students who could relate to them.
I feel that the early exposure to the HBCU campuses was so beneficial for my kids. They are now talking about what clubs they want to join in college and what sports they want to play. My son is now thinking about his GPA going into the 9th grade after hearing a football player talk about the importance of grades to being on the team. I’m so glad this is just the beginning of our HBCU tours. I am just as excited, if not more excited as they are about the potential of them attending one of these illustrious institutions of learning.
Did you attend an HBCU? Would you consider sending your children to one?