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‘Destination HBCU’ makes Black college experience a reality for Detroit youth

The 2019 Destination HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) Experience and College Fair was held Saturday, April 27 at the Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology, in Southfield, Michigan. The college fair was designed to bring information, access and opportunities pertaining to the HBCU experience to students in Detroit and across the state of Michigan and surrounding areas. These students normally would not have the opportunity to gain the level of HBCU exposure as provided under one roof by the college fair.

Jennifer Smith is the founder and president of Closing The Gap Detroit, and she had this to say about this year’s event: “We want to bring Black college information to students in metro Detroit, especially since there are no more HBCU’s in this area.

The HBCU College Fair was presented in partnership with Southfield Public schools and was free and open to the public. It offered full-scale college accessible information ranging from college admissions, breakout sessions, collegiate experience to alumni networking. There were also several panel discussions that focused on the unique HBCU experience from the Black perspective, how to pay for college education and more.

We talked more with Smith to glean additional information about the trailblazing event.

What is your goal in hosting the event?

The goal in hosting the event is exposure. I want students in the college decision-making process to also consider an HBCU as one of their options. My experience matriculating at an HBCU prepared me, not only as a student, but also offered an atmosphere where I could develop into my best self internally, which ultimately helped tremendously as I graduated and entered my post-graduate career. The amount of support experienced at an HBCU environment is unmatched. I believe every student deserves to feel supported while receiving a topnotch education, just like me. 

Beyoncé just dropped her documentary and soundtrack “Homecoming” where she featured some amazing HBCU’s and marching bands. What effect do you think it will have on HBCU enrollments going forward?

I truly believe that Beyoncés “Homecoming” documentary and soundtrack where she unveiled the greatness that is HBCU to the Coachella audience and ultimately the world, will be very influential in terms of helping to further propel this current climate where there is an uptick in HBCU admissions enrollment. For me, it also seems a bit like history repeating itself. When I was in high school, I remember deliberate and intentional reinforcements of historically black colleges and universities shown in clothing being worn by actors/actresses and music artists as well as depictions of beacons of black pride being visible in product placements as I watched TV shows such as “The Cosby Show”, “A Different World” and films such as Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and “School Daze” that spoke of the black experience, black excellence and having pride amongst our ourselves, our culture and our institutions were displayed in so many facets. I know for sure it affected or contributed in some way my desire to attend an HBCU despite the options to attend a PWI (predominantly white institution). 

How can students and parents get more information?

Students and parents can get more info about college opportunities, financial aid and scholarship information and more by visiting Closing the Gap-Detroit (online and on social media). Due to the success of this year’s Destination HBCU College Fair, plans are underway for another college fair to be held in 2020.