Each Fall for the last 22 years, Chicago has hosted a Football Classic. This year, Howard University’s Bison and Hampton University’s Pirates go head-to-head. And, Howard is the home team.
While people come for sportsmanship of the teams and the spectacle of the bands, there also is scholarship piece that helps students. Jawaun Johnson is a recent graduate of Morehouse College. A first-generation college student, who grew up in the projects, he said there was really no money for college.
“The Chicago Football Classic and UNCF provided the opportunity for me to go to college and be financially free,” he said. “It was the first time I had to just focus on school.”
Johnson said it was also helpful for him to have a support system. “Talking to them, getting advice and learning how to make adjustments was invaluable,” he said.
Johnson said he is truly blessed. He was blessed even more during his commencement when Robert F. Smith announced that he would pay the student loan debt of the Morehouse class of 2019 graduates. “It was a crazy experience. It was definitely a blessing and I was at a loss for words,” he said.
Johnson said he also wanted to give back, to show giving him the scholarship was a good investment. While at Morehouse, he hosted a flag football event where the proceeds went to students who lived in Atlanta’s West End, as well as awarded two scholarships in his name.
“I was so inspired by people in Chicago giving to me, I started mentoring and helping people out,” he said.
Johnson said he is grateful to UNCF and the Chicago Football Classic and wants to continue to give back and pay homage to them. He also said he has learned a lot from his experience.
“You can manifest anything into reality as long as you put God first,” he said.
Stories like this highlight the good works, off the field, as a result of the Classic.
Everett Rand and Larry Huggins are the founders of the Chicago Football Classic, which celebrates its 22ndanniversary. For 15 of those years, there has been a College Fair.
Approximately 25-30 HBCUs participate in the fair and the schools heavily recruit from Chicago. And, those schools provide scholarships to students in the area.
“Central State has given away $500,000 per year to Chicagoland area students,” said Rand. “We’ve also done some personal scholarships for students who had a need.”
Huggins said it is his hope that Hampton and Howard will also give scholarships to students from the area. He also said there are more band scholarships than sports scholarships.
Rand said graduates of HBCUs have pride in their schools.
“When you talk to a graduate of an HBCU, they speak with such pride,” he said. “People are proud to show their colors.”
Both Rand and Huggins acknowledged that there is also an economic advantage to schools.
“There’s an economic impact of the game and the economic impact of the Universities that play the game,” Rand said.
Huggins added, without these games, some of the schools wouldn’t be able to maintain their scholarships.
“The only reason why we do this game is to show African American students the importance of higher education,” said Huggins. “The Classics have to survive. We have to keep this game going.”
The Classic weekend has fun for everyone. There is scheduled a pep rally, Greek Step Classic, Tailgating, Vendor Market Place and a Battle of the High School Bands. For more information go to: www.chicagofootballclassic.org.