More than 200 prospective college students were provided an opportunity to meet with 17 historically Black colleges and universities at Noble Butler College Prep, 821 E. 103rd St., for the school’s 3rd Annual Historically Black Colleges & University College Fair.
The growing tradition included representatives from Spelman College, Jackson State University, Clark Atlanta University, and more. Throughout the evening, students were able to talk one-on-one with school representatives, receive information, and sign up for different services. Butler College Prep staff could be seen wearing shirts that said: “I Love My Future HBCU.”
Brian J. Riddick, Director of College & Post-Secondary Planning at Noble Butler College Prep, said the college fair has expanded from roughly five schools represented in its first year. He said although he did not attend a HBCU, several of his family members have, which imparted upon him a great appreciation for them. He said the growing number of school participants for the college fair stems from creating and maintaining consistent connections with various schools.
“I just happened to understand the importance of making sure that our students have this exposure,” said Riddick.
Riddick said attendance at the college fair was totally voluntary. Students were only required to be a part of the Noble system of schools, wear their uniforms, and have their identification.
Tuition costs are the biggest barrier to his students attending college, according to Riddick. However, he said in years past several students have managed to secure scholarships. He said students are well aware of the legacy of HBCUs within the African American community.
“So many of students come from elementary schools and grade schools that are historically Black, they want to continue that so I would venture to say that most of them would prefer to go to HBCUs,” said Riddick.
Students from Gary Comer College Prep, 7131 S. South Chicago Ave., were bussed to Butler College Prep to take advantage of the fair as well. Riddick said the partnership with Gary Comer College Prep extends from their desire to expand the college fair to a similar demographic.
“We have a lot of Noble campuses on the South Side so we were thinking about working with [Gary Comer],” said Riddick. “We would love to offer this on a grander scale, but for now we are starting small and figuring out where to go from there.”
Traci J. Alexander, a college counselor at Butler College Prep, alumnae of Fisk University, said because several of the teachers and staff at Butler loved their time at their respective HBCUs that affection has trickled down to the students.
“Through our experiences being talked about in the classroom, it kind of opened their eyes a little bit more, and what better way than to give them a fair that’s going to cater to the HBCU experience,” said Alexander.
Deja Phillips, 18, a Butler College Prep senior, said her preference is to attend an out-of-state college where she intends to major in criminal justice or political science. She said because Butler College Prep is predominantly African American, she felt it was in the students’ best interests to support and possibly attend an HBCU. She said she was not well versed in HBCUs prior to attending Butler, but now Clark Atlanta University, Howard University, and Hampton University top her list of prospective schools. She said she along with a couple dozen members of her senior class went on an HBCU college tour to visit several of the institutions.
“If you don’t know what HBCUs are about, I recommend them because there are PWIs [predominantly White institutions] that help Black people but some people feel more comfortable in their element so just be open minded,” said Phillips.
Matoya Marsh, Director of First Year Experience at Chicago State University, said as a predominantly Black institution, the university offers students an opportunity to receive an experience similar to an HBCU without having to leave the city. She was accompanied by several CSU students including members of Black Greek fraternities and sororities.
“The experience a Chicago State is accepting, it’s truly family oriented; there’s this feel that as soon as you walk into this space, you belong,” said Marsh. “It’s family here.”
Local HBCU alumni participated in the college fair, too. Davonna Brown, secretary of the Chicago alumni chapter for Clark Atlanta University, a Chicago native, said she wanted to attend the college fair to share her experiences with the students. She said that initially she was not accepted into the university but with persistence was admitted.
“It’s very important for our youth to know there’s more beyond Illinois, and for some students like myself, I did a lot better in a cultural environment,” said Brown. “I just want the youth to know that there are schools out there that will support them both academically as well as culturally.”