Stomping the Yard

Three Advantages to Attending an HBCU

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As a proud alum of Howard University, I consider myself a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) enthusiast. But, honestly growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I really didn’t know many HBCU alums. And, unlike the South, the Midwest doesn’t really have any HBCUs located in our region that are an integral part of the fiber of the Black communities in which they were founded.

Nope, I got convinced, really recruited, to attend an HBCU not by an alum, or high school counselor, but the television show A Different World, is a spin-off series from The Cosby Show which centered on the life of students at Hillman College, a fictional historically black college in the state of Virginia.

As a Midwesterner growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, A Different World was an excellent introduction to the beauty and benefits of the HBCU experience. But, how do today’s students get exposed to these great institutions? Here I share the story of Clafin University sophomore, Dennis Richmond who has taken on a personal campaign to encourage more students in the North to attend HBCUs.

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Born and raised in Yonkers, Westchester County, New York, I am beating the drum for enticing high school students to take advantage of an HBCU education across the greater New York city area. Approaching my high school graduation, I really didn’t know anything about HBCUs, even though my mom graduated from one. And, there’s a certain stigma associated with being a young Black male from New York. Plus, to be honest I too wasn’t sure what “down South” had to offer me being from the “big city.”

I stepped out of Yonkers, to embark on the first year of my college experience August 2013. Although I assumed “it was just South Carolina” I was moving to, within the first week of being at Claflin University, I met students from all over the country who were quite different then I was. I have met students from Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, Charleston, Blythewood, Queens, Cincinnati and Alaska to name a few places. I’ve learned so much from my fellow classmates, and I’m intrigued by what they share about their home towns, and look forward to visiting their cities and may consider relocation for future graduate studies and career plans.

Although I major in African Diaspora Studies, attending an HBCU provides great opportunities to learn more about African-American history for its entire student body. Since matriculating at Clafin, I learned more about Black fraternities and sororities. Prior to leaving Yonkers, I knew very little about the rich history and community contributions made by these honorable organizations. And, it was in my best interest to know this history considering, the New Rochelle- White Plains Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated had granted me a four-year scholarship to help ease the pain of my college expenses.

When I come home on breaks to visit NY, so many friends and younger students can’t even imagine what attending an HBCU in the south could do for them. And, most of the students are not familiar with HBCU’s period. With some assistance from the White House Initiative on HBCU’s, I have become an advocate for HBCUs, and use time on my breaks from school to visit New York high schools and share the benefits of attending HBCU’s with these students. There are a few reasons as to why I would say that Northern students, especially Black males and females from the large cities, should consider attending an HBCU.

1. Learn A New Region: Most of the over 100 HBCUs are not in northern regions of the US, meaning students would have to leave their comfort zone and venture out in the world and learn a new city, state, and region.

2. Join A Strong Historic Tradition: Attending an HBCU puts you among a long line of African Americans, in the past and currently, who are pioneers and big achievers in their industries, accomplished historical feats, and may become one of your next mentors in your growing network of positive influencers.

3. Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships. Lastly, I highly value the opportunity to receive a quality higher education, which too many young Black men such as myself are not as fortunate to obtain. Additionally, too many students are unaware of the scholarship and financial opportunities available to them when they choose HBCUs.

YOUR TURN: Do you attend an HBCU or thinking about attending one? Let us know in the comments!

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program, a University of Chicago adopted community program, that  has served more than 1000+ girls, aged seven to 17 years old, to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 400+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blog and on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.