It is a common practice on the HBCU Trek to take a picture with students. I take every opportunity to speak with the students about a campus. Speaking to students at random, not Student Government Representatives or work study students at the information desk, provides a particular perspective of the campus: they tell you how they have personally experienced the HBCU, rather than speaking on what the college strives to offer. Students walking to class, hanging out in the student center, or eating a meal in the main campus cafeteria present the college in a way that cannot always be captured in an View Book or on the school’s website. Student views, stories, and observations (people watching) add something to a campus visit that school recruiters, commercials, billboards, and watching HBCU football classics on BET or ESPN are not able to fully project: authenticity.
The intangible authenticity provided by student interaction on a campus visit is priceless. The recruitment staff, campus tour guides, print & broadcast college advertisements are all great ways to expose people to the existence of HBCUs, but I think any HBCU student, employee, or alum would agree that if you have the opportunity to step foot on the physical campus, you should take that chance. That first step on an HBCU campus means more to the Black community than astronauts landing on the moon. The supposed “one giant leap” for mankind did not change much in daily lives of those living in Black neighborhoods; when a Black youth steps foot on an HBCU campus, however, their stories and experiences directly encourage their peers and bring pride to the elders of their communities.
Because of their often sub-par K-12 academic experiences and poverty-level socio-economic backgrounds, many HBCU students project a deep sense of gratitude and high level of self-efficacy that they attribute to their institution. In essence, Black people in America go through a test every day, and by attending an HBCU African American youth are intentionally equipped with the tools, skills, and cultural capital necessary to survive life’s test with their heads held high; as a result, HBCUs are credited in most alums’ testimonies about how “they made it.” I’ve found it to be an amazing experience to hear and receive these testimonies from the students while they are in the midst of receiving their psychological, intellectual, and oftentimes spiritual healing through their individual Black College Experiences.