Jordan Johnson is a senior at the School Without Walls High School in the Northwest quadrant of the District of Columbia and like many seniors; she is looking forward to attending college. Jordan has opted to attend a historically Black college and university (HBCU), and is proud of her decision to do so.
Jordan Johnson is a senior at D.C.’s School Without Walls. (Courtesy Photo/DCPS)
“People may knock down certain schools, but I’m going to be somewhere where I will be comfortable,” Jordan said. Jordan isn’t alone with her assessment.
On Dec. 7, 2016, School Without Walls hosted an HBCU Summit and College Fair for students in all District high schools. Hundreds of students, including Jordan, listened to speakers Keneshia Grant, a Howard University political scientist who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University (FAMU); Keith Perry, a H.D. Woodson High School, Morehouse College, and Howard Law School graduate; and others.
The students were able to interact with HBCU alumni and network with admissions officials from Bowie State University, Morgan State University, Jackson State University, Grambling University, Spelman College, and Tuskegee University.
DCPS’ School Without Walls hosted an HBCU Summit and College Fair
Perry, the executive director of the National Bar Association, said if a student wants to go to an HBCU, they should go for it. “I wanted to be able to talk with them and explain to them that there are people who have walked the same path and explain to them that there’s a path to success academically,” he said.
The District’s Black residents have long had relationships with HBCUs. The city’s first HBCU was Miner Normal School, founded in 1851 for “colored girls” and through the years, Miner evolved through mergers and consolidations to become the University of the District of Columbia in 1975 by an act of the D.C. Council. Howard University, considered one of the leading HBCUs in the country, was founded in 1867 by Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, head of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
A number of District leaders have received their education at HBCUs, with D.C. Council members Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) graduating from Howard and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) receiving their bachelor’s degrees from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Bowie State University, respectively.
Former D.C. Mayors Walter Washington and Sharon Pratt went to Howard University for their bachelor’s degrees and its law school, while Marion S. Barry graduated from LeMoyne College and received his master’s degree from Fisk University.
While Perry used his undergraduate experience at Morehouse for success in law school, James McClelland Jr., an internal controls and processes manager at Fannie Mae, told the AFRO his bachelor’s degree in accounting from North Carolina A&T University helped him do well getting his master of science degree in accounting at Michigan State University (MSU).
“On the academic front, my undergraduate course load was strong enough to the point where I had already taken some of the classes required for my master’s degree at A&T,” McClelland, a graduate of Dunbar High School, said. “It made matriculating through my master’s program a lot easier when compared to some of my peers from other schools, including the MSU undergrads in the program with me.”
McClelland, a CPA, said the confidence he gained at A&T helped him become a leader at MSU and in his professional life. McClelland said, “An HCBU experience is second to none. The family environment helps tremendously; the professors and administrators are personally vested in the success of students and you aren’t considered a number. The quality of education is just as strong if not stronger than non-HBCUs. There are several lifelong connections made and when you walk out of the walls of an HBCU, you will, without a shadow of a doubt, be prepared to take on life’s challenges.”
Jordan is considering Norfolk State University, Dillard University, Fayetteville State University, FAMU, and Virginia State University, and is interested in studying business administration and marketing, with an eye on entrepreneurship.
Jordan told the AFRO she had to refute erroneous claims that students attending predominantly White institutions have a distinct advantage over those attending HBCUs in the job market.
“That is completely inaccurate,” she said. “The school that someone went to plays a part but is not the primary reason someone is hired. Plus, HBCUs and their alumni have connections to industries that will help students to find jobs.”
LaToya Grant is the admissions director and internship coordinator at School Without Walls and a graduate of Florida A&M University. She agrees with Jordan and McClelland about the HBCU experience. “Black colleges and universities prepare you for the real world,” she told the AFRO. “HBCU graduates tend to fare better than students who attended in many cases.”