Rolling Out

The Home Depot: Making a remarkable difference for HBCU students and alumni

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Photo courtesy of Munson Steed

For three years The Home Depot’s Retool Your School program has made a remarkable difference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities looking to upgrade their grounds and facilities. The competition, which is designed to increase student and alumni school pride, also gives students the opportunity to learn from other case studies by touring competing college campuses. This innovative project provides funding for HBCUs to improve their campuses, from landscaping and painting to facility upgrades. The Home Depot Retool Your School competition is the essence of what it is to “do it yourself” to improve ourselves.

This competition also serves as a positive example and showcases how diverse marketing by corporations and ad agencies can make a difference in a real and profitable way. Reaching out to diverse markets creates a win-win scenario. The program’s success directly correlates to The Home Depot’s utilization of Black-owned ad agencies and suppliers who are able to support and give back to their own community. Retool Your School is a positive program that helps everyone and makes us all proud, regardless of whether you are an HBCU student, alum, or have a family member or friend who attends an HBCU.

Whether retooling our schools through a bucket of paint, retooling our schools through gardening, or by being a Retool Your School judge, this initiative has allowed me to not only understand the needs of HBCUs, but also showcases a great corporation whose community outreach is guided by an authentic voice, a Black advertising agency who understands and can communicate the corporation’s objectives while maintaining a relationship with the community. It is also a great example of supplier diversity and affirms exactly what we want from corporations, respect.The Home Depot recognizes the relevance of HBCUs as institutions that are molding and developing and have molded and develop influential individuals across the country. This is another great illustration of media partners and conference partners demonstrating the difference that can be made with real effort and programs like Retool Your School.

If nothing else, when I consider buying paint or when I’m thinking about replacing my refrigerator, I am willing to travel further to find my local Home Depot. Yes, I’ll go that extra mile because at least I can say honestly as a graduate of an HBCU school, Morehouse, that The Home Depot is making an effort when it comes to diversity and inclusion and not just in the tokenism of having Black actors appearing in commercials. No, their commitment goes way beyond that. Their commitment is apparent in their use of Black vendors, in tapping a Black agency to hire talent, in utilizing HBCU graduates like Laz Alonso as program ambassadors, and having media partners like Coco Fab.

We have to have a criteria by which marketing for our community can be profitable and beneficial to both parties. The Home Depot’s Retool Your School program is just one excellent example. So if you bypass your local hardware store to support The Home Depot, know that our children are benefiting from their commitment to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. And know that the students and alumni of Spelman, Howard, Morehouse and other HBCUs work to make the Retool Your School program a reality.

It’s time that we retool our thinking to do business with corporations like The Home Depot and Macy’s, who hire, inspire and are committed to making a difference and developing relationships with HBCUs. We must make this distinction and utilize our dollars to support those who support our community. Thanks to The Home Depot and all those corporations that are making honest commitments.


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