VOICES: HBCUs helped me become a powerful, outspoken, and hardworking Black woman

Kennedy Lynn S. Mandeville, Wilberforce University, class of 2023.
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Kennedy Lynn S. Mandeville, Wilberforce University, class of 2023.

I am an English major at an historically Black college/university, commonly known as an HBCU. I have the honor and distinction of attending Wilberforce University (WU), founded in 1856 as the nation’s first, private HBCU owned and operated by people of African descent. And now, a few centuries later, I am proud to say I have learned and I have grown in this academic environment that this historic institution has provided.

HBCUs are places where students of color thrive and engage in a community in which their experiences are better understood. I have never felt more welcome or at home than on my campus. It is where the idea of family and unity is intensely cherished and there is never a doubt that I am expected to succeed. My HBCU accepted me when I was struggling and not sure if I even belonged in college. Not only that, throughout my life, I had always felt a disconnect with my community of African Americans, but the moment I stepped foot on the Wilberforce campus, the staff, the students, and the administration were all ready to help and greeted me warmly with open arms. I had not had that same that reaction from visiting non HBCU colleges and it touched my heart to see the lengths Wilberforce would stretch for me.

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The importance of HBCUs runs deep in and out of the classroom. I have had other opportunities at HBCUs that have offered me help with networking, that have expressed their care about my success as a black woman and have been more than willing to provide what I need to reach my goals. For a college to reach out and offer help to other students who don’t even attend their university shows that the care we have as a Black community reaches further than paying tuition and graduation rates. These great institutions strive harder to work together because they want to make sure all young African Americans succeed despite any hardships, giving opportunities to many who might feel they don’t have any choices. They teach that no matter the issues, you will always have the capability to rise above, be great and become the best version of yourself.

These doors are open to others who share our values or who may want to learn about them because we are taught more than academics. We are taught about life; we are taught about our history and what we can learn from it. HBCUs were created to elevate the Black community to its highest level for growth. Our learning experience goes deeper so that, post-graduation, we have the best chance to face the world.

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I cannot imagine where I would be had I not gone to an HBCU. We are taught to create solutions for the problems around us, and to never allow anyone to make us feel less than, because we are greater and stronger than anyone could imagine. Thanks to my HBCU, I have found my voice to become a powerful, outspoken, and hardworking Black woman, who has realized my ability to create change.

Kennedy Lynn S. Mandeville, class of 2023, is English major at Wilberforce University.