The annual celebration taking place this week at Historically Black Universities and Colleges is so much more than a gathering of current students, faculty, influential leaders, roundtable discussions and events.
HBCU Week is about “opening minds and opening opportunities” for new students, according to its Foundation CEO Ashley Christopher.
“We’re exposing students to a proud history and legacy,” she says. “We want every student that comes through our virtual doors to walk away understanding that they can do and be anything coming from an HBCU.”
What many high schools seniors could come away with, too, at this online-only event are on-the-spot acceptances from colleges and universities along with scholarship offers.
Last year during HBCU Week, students were awarded more than $3.9 million in scholarships. In all, there were 1,200 on-the-spot acceptances and 420 scholarships offered, including 63 full rides a pretty impressive week’s work.
The HBCU Week Foundation says this year is one of the most important for incoming students, who are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, an unstable economy, racial equity issues and social unrest. For these high schoolers looking to chart their futures and become part of “the template for change” it likely will start during HBCU Week and culminate in its College Fair on Friday and Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
“Our week of virtual events will expose students to an authentic HBCU experience,” Christopher says. “Students will attend panels on topics such as financial health, female empowerment and becoming changemakers. [At the] virtual college fair, they can meet one-on-one with admissions officers and corporate partners, apply for internships, and potentially get on-the-spot acceptance and scholarships, all without leaving home.”
More from UB: On-the-spot acceptances
Among the many highlights of the week will be a live ESPN broadcast of the popular “First Take” show featuring host Stephen A. Smith, who will be the ambassador for the event. A graduate of Winston Salem State University, he says those who attend will feel the bond of the HBCU family and can potentially follow in the footsteps of powerful national leader such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, Kamala Harris, and Chadwick Boseman, who all attended HBCU schools.
“HBCUs offer Black and Brown students the chance to thrive and appreciate their value all while gaining an excellent education as we can see from the people that have graduated from these institutions,” Smith says. “When you go to an HBCU and you see people who have similar cultural backgrounds, you no longer feel alone. And when you see your peers excel, you become convinced that you can too. The HBCU experience offers students real advantages both during college and into their careers.”
Giving these students opportunities is especially important, the Foundation notes, because HBCUs represent 3% of U.S. colleges and universities but are responsible for one-fourth of all African American science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees.
One of the other major highlights at 6 p.m. on Thursday is a conversation dubbed “Still I Rise” with Grammy-award winning artist Erykah Badu and Heather Lowery, CEO of Femme it Forward.
The NFL, Capital One and JP Morgan Chase are all corporate sponsors of the event, which includes a game night tonight at 9, virtual sessions on STEM, the college transition to the working world, how to manage self-doubt, financial health and an introduction to HBCUs.
Those wishing to register for the event can sign up at hbcuweek.org
Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for University Business. He can be reached at [email protected]