When I was applying for college, my high school counselor didn’t believe I was qualified for my dream schools and kept pushing me to aim lower. She also didn’t know a single thing about HBCUs. Yes, she was white and I was only one of many Black girls who were discouraged while looking for schools. This experience set me back from being able to fully explore my college options - my Black college options.
However, if I knew of an organization like HBCU Night, I would’ve been in the perfect hands. Founder and Executive Director Andres Martin had a similar experience. He told me his counselor didn’t believe his grades would get him into any school, not even a community college. But, with the support of his family, he went on an HBCU tour and after networking with recruiters, received acceptances to four of them.
He landed at Grambling State University for undergraduate and then Howard for graduate school. In 2016, Martin used his journey to create a multifaceted experience to expose students to all there is about HBCUs. Then, in 2019 HBCU Night became an official 501c3 nonprofit organization. Over 80,000 students were able to find programming dream schools or dream careers through the help of the team Martin built, a team who cared about their future.
“We’re so underserved. We are severely underrepresented. I think when we get into these spaces, we can kind of try to come up out of these environments [and] go into a place where we can evolve and grow. When I kind of reflect back on trying to put all my effort into to getting things done in the classroom and enjoying student life, I want students to experience that as well,” said Martin.
If HBCUs are so great, why don’t more students know about them? The stigma.
The negative stereotyping of HBCUs came not only from white people but Black people too. Misinformation about HBCUs is one of the main reasons why Black kids choose not to apply and why some Black parents tell their children not to apply. One misconception is that you can’t be as successful graduating from an HBCU versus a PWI. HBCU Night changes that narrative through their presentations by sharing the data they’ve gathered.
According to UNCF, HBCU graduates contribute $14.8 billion to the US economy annually, $130 billion in total lifetime earnings and produce:
- 80 percent of Black judges
- 70 percent Black dentists
- 50 percent of Black doctors
- 50 percent of Black lawyers
- 50 percent of Black teachers
- 40 percent of Black engineers
“You have these figureheads [like Martin Luther King Jr., Toni Morrison etc.] and you’re wondering, ‘Hey, an HBCU may not be the way.’ Really? Do you have your list of Black folks or society leaders that went to HBCUs and have done so many excellent things, that went on to contribute to society? We have to get rid of that stigma and combat those negative connotations,” said Martin.
One thing is true amongst the murmurs about HBCUs: they are underfunded. Many of my peers at schools would say the reason they didn’t go to their dream HBCU was because they weren’t given enough in scholarships. Though, President Joe Biden allocated funds toward HBCUs, their students often lack financial support. However, HBCU Night also provides some funding along with encouragement to apply to those schools kids worry about being able to pay for.
They’ve awarded scholars a total of $113,940,128 in scholarship grants through their HBCU Night events, over $61 million of those grants being between 2021 and 2022 alone. They’ve even partnered with HBCU Buzz on tours/programming and offered 1,564 in crypto currency they call HBCU Coins to scholars at HBCU Talks events.
Most importantly, HBCU Night brings the resources directly to the students. From panels with successful HBCU graduates, one on one’s with recruiters, networking opportunities and Divine Nine showcases, hundreds of students have been able to take a glimpse into what HBCU life is truly like. With A DiGital World (a play on ‘A Different World’), they’ve been able to turn the classic school fair into an all-accessible virtual experience.
“A DiGital World has literally changed lives. Our strategy to that is free registration, free attendance and free connections. Then if you work hard enough, and if you come with etiquette and you’re ready to bring deliverables, you’ll end up with some scholarships and some acceptance letters,” Martin said. “We’ve had on-the-spot acceptances, virtually and we’ve had scholarships on-the-spot virtually. Not only have our [in-person] events helped students register but also their parents, they’ve convinced their parents to come.”
If I knew about HBCU Night when I was in high school, they would’ve outdone my counselor in a heartbeat. Don’t believe me? Let an HBCU Night scholar tell it instead.
“HBCU Night events helped me get exposed to HBCUs. My school never really explored them with us so being able to attend the Virtual College Fair throughout the week allowed me to learn of HBCUs I’ve never heard of...” said Florida A&M University student Samuelle Pierre-Louis Cange. Cange was also offered over $600,000 in scholarships and was accepted to 25 HBCUs.
Look out for information about HBCU Night’s next virtual college fair coming up in September 2022. (Share with your favorite Black PWI student)