HBCU College Expo strikes chord

Published 9:47 pm Friday, November 15, 2019

Adrienne Miller had long wanted to put together an event in Suffolk to raise student awareness for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, and with the first HBCU College Expo Wednesday at King’s Fork High School, her efforts have paid off.

The college expo featured 11 schools, including HBCUs from Virginia and North Carolina as well as Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga. It also featured representatives from five fraternities and four sororities, the band, Soul Statix, whose members graduated from HBCUs, and the group Straighten Up and Fly Right, a foundation headed by School Board member Tyron Riddick, who is a graduate of Norfolk State University.

Others who turned out to support the event included Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III and Director of Human Resources Dr. Rodney Brown.

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Miller, the ACCESS Advisor at King’s Fork, is a graduate of an HBCU, Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. She wanted to pay homage to HBCUs and introduce them to students who might not have as much awareness of those schools. She wants students to find the right fit for them, no matter the school.

“A lot of people still don’t know (about HBCUs),” Miller said. “People assume that they know what an HBCU is. A lot of people don’t, or they may have some myths about it. Even right down to who goes. Is it all black people that go? Absolutely not. I have a lot of students that are attending HBCUs. It’s just increasing awareness.”

Amahri Edwards-Jones, a 17-year old senior at King’s Fork, is one of those who wasn’t fully aware of all the HBCUs out there.

“I wanted to be introduced to new HBCUs,” Edwards-Jones said. “You hear about the popular ones, but there are some right around here. I didn’t even know about Virginia Union (University). It’s just exciting to learn about it.”

Edwards-Jones, who goes to the Governor’s School for the Arts for musical theater, wants to study theater in college, with the hopes of ending up on Broadway.

“I think for the first time, it’s very well put together,” Edwards-Jones said. “They got a lot of schools. It’s very nice.”

More than 300 students from around the region, including Suffolk’s three public high schools, turned out.

Cheyene Henry, a 16-year old junior at King’s Fork, said she had been leaning toward Howard University, but the event had opened her eyes to other possibilities.

“I’m really passionate about my culture,” Henry said while with her mom next to the Spelman College table. “And going to an HBCU gives me a chance to actually learn about my culture from someone who actually cares. I want to go to an HBCU for the experience and for my education.”

She said her mom, Elicia Henry, has been doing a pretty good job selling her on Spelman, but her mom said she wants her to find the best fit for what she is looking for in a school.

“I’m hoping that she gets to learn more about different colleges and trying to open her eyes to different places,” Elicia Henry said.

Henry said she wants to be an anesthesiologist and study pre-med, with her second choice being to study psychology.

“It’s very beneficial to me, because, being a junior, you’re going to actively search for a college, so this is really helpful to me. It kind of makes me narrow down my choices.”

Miller said she is pleased with the event for its first year, especially since she put it together in just over a month, and is looking forward to having a bigger event in the future.

“To see how it’s going this year,” Miller said, “the only goal next year is that I start earlier.”