June 14, 2024

Lake County-area students check out Black colleges at HBCU Experience; 'You get to see African American(s) … who … – Chicago Tribune

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Steve Sadin / Lake County News-Sun
Representatives of Historically Black Colleges and Universities sat at tables around the gym.
Steve Sadin / Lake County News-Sun
Waukegan Supervisor Marc Jones, center, talks with panelists after their presentation at the HBCU Experience Monday in Waukegan.
Steve Sadin / Lake County News-Sun
More than 600 students participated in the HBCU Experience Monday in Waukegan.
Steve Sadin / Lake County News-Sun
Participants in Waukegan Township’s HCBU Experience got entertainment along with exposure to potential college choices.
Steve Sadin / Lake County News-Sun
Talking about Waukegan Township’s HCBU Experience are high school students from a variety of high schools in Lake County and beyond.

Deena Westley is a junior at Christian Life High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin and a Waukegan resident starting to consider colleges. She is thinking about a historically Black college or university (HBCU).
“I’m going to a school now where only four of the people in my class are Black,” Westley said. “School’s been like that all my life.”
Landen Kelly, a Waukegan High School junior, is looking at Southern Illinois University, but is also thinking about an HBCU. Mostly he is looking for a good school to learn to become an engineer.
“I go to a diverse high school,” Kelly said. “I know my culture and who I am. I want to go somewhere that can help me.”
Dr. Deborah Smart is a retired family practitioner and a Gurnee resident. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and went to medical school at Michigan State University. She decided to send her daughter to an HBCU.
“I felt it would be a good experience for her after being one of the few Blacks at a mostly white high school,” Smart said, referring to Warren Township High School.
Westley, Kelly and Smart were three of more than 600 participants in Waukegan Township’s second-annual HBCU Experience Monday in the Waukegan High School gym, which was designed to expose teens to what HBCUs can offer them.
Waukegan Township Supervisor Marc Jones said he started the HBCU Experience last year when the annual Artis Yancey HBCU Tour was again sidelined because of the coronavirus pandemic. With the tour back this year over spring break, Monday served as a preview.
“There’s a lot of energy here today,” Jones said. “It’s informative and educational. They get a chance to talk to representatives of different schools and careers. Last year we had 200, and this year we have a lot more.”
Along with the opportunity to meet with representatives of different colleges — both HBCUs and other schools that want to recruit potential attendees from Lake County — participants listened to former students talk about their college experiences and enjoyed some entertainment.
Programming took place on the gym floor with tables surrounding the basketball court, where representatives of schools, fraternities, sororities, the NAACP of Lake County, the military and other related organizations sat around the perimeter of the upper and lower levels of the arena.
While the bulk of the students a year ago came from Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion-Benton high schools, Jones said this year they gathered from farther away and represented an array of schools both public and private.
Jones said Presidents Day was not a holiday at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, but students were taken out of class to participate. There were teens from Warren, Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Grayslake North and Grayslake Central high schools, as well as Lake Forest Academy and North Shore Country Day School.
Joshua Lemons, a North Shore Country Day freshman from North Chicago, said while he is not taking a close look at colleges yet, an HBCU is something he will consider.
“I want to learn more about it,” Lemons said. “It’s something I want to consider.”
Former Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham, the city’s first Black mayor, graduated from Central States University, an HBCU in Wilberforce, Ohio. He was at the event. He said his college experience helped shape him, even though he was raised in a diverse community.
“At an HBCU you get to see African American men and women who are all successful in their life,” Cunningham said. “It inspired me to work hard to be the best that I can be.”
Ashley Cullen-Williams, a grant manager at the College of Lake County and a graduate of Alabama A&M University, was at the HBCU Experience representing her alma mater. She said for some students an HBCU is an excellent choice.
“They get an experience in a place that accepts them,” Cullen-Williams said.
Shevon Porter, an admissions counselor at Northern Illinois University, said the HBCU Experience is a good place to recruit students for the DeKalb school, which she said has a student body composed of more than 50% students of color.
Copyright © 2024 Chicago Tribune

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