Local HBCUs share strategy of student success with K-12 institutions Photo: Adobe Stock Images

Now more than ever, the presence and value of historically Black Colleges and Universities remain relevant to the economic and career advancement of young Black students, especially starting at the K-12 level.

Some Americans wonder that with college costs steadily increasing, along with graduates facing student loan debt and low wages, is a higher education even worth the investment?

How about Black colleges?

In a United Negro College Fund (UNCF) report titled “Imparting Wisdom: HBCU Lessons for K-12 Education,” President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax said that, “HBCUs have historically proven to be more successful at educating and graduating African American students — especially students from low- to moderate-income households; are first-generation college students; or those who’ve had an inequitable K-12 education.”

Lomax also argued that students should have a quality K-12 foundation, ultimately leading to a successful college experience.

K-12 institutions deal with many challenges, including budget cuts, teacher shortages, learning loss, inequitable technological access, school safety and student mental health. HBCUs’ partnership plays a crucial role in improving the K-12 experience for Black students.

“We have created the infrastructure processes that we’ve put into full effect for our partnerships with K-12 schools, said Dr. Tyrone Tanner, executive director, Prairie View A&M University Northwest Houston Center. “We’ve had several meetings and identified key players from the university side that will interact with students and the leadership team, developing mentorship components and curriculum, and supporting educators also.”

Local HBCUs share strategy of student success with K-12 institutions Photo: Adobe Stock Images

One example is PVAMU’s partnership with Aldine ISD and the Young Men’s Leadership Academy. It’s a Choice School focused on developing young men of color and providing a culture for students to thrive and prepare them for college.

“This is a special demographic because when we look at our Black and Brown boys, they often perform at much lower rates academically, and they have the potential to be great. They need proper guidance and support,” Tanner said. “We have to close the achievement gap. These students will face racial, social, and economic challenges, and it’s our job to help them be effective communicators, community advocates and leaders.”

The UNCF report said that Black students often experience a “belief gap” or the discrepancy between what they think they can achieve versus what they can achieve in school. It also said that non-Black teachers have implicit biases that make them set lower expectations for Black students than Black teachers.

“HBCUs are essential because our students come to be celebrated and not tolerated,” said Dr. Reginald Todd, assistant professor at Texas Southern University College of Education. “Many faculty members throughout the university have different grants where they work with K-12 students. My background is in math education, so I work with students over the summer to get them excited about STEM.”

This summer, TSU hosted its sixth annual Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers Immersion camp. This camp is a STEM-focused training development program for middle school students. Students immersed themselves in 3-D printing, augmented reality and electronic work.

LaRence Snowden, assistant vice president for research at TSU, said in a camp recap video that some students who participated in the camp returned as mentors and instructors. This is an initiative that Black and brown students participate in to get early exposure to higher education.

“What happens at an HBCU is a unique and powerful process for students. The future for them is bright, Tanner said.”   

BEST PRACTICES FOR K-12: BY DR. TYRONE TANNER

  • “No child gets left behind. HBCUs have a strong sense of responsibility for learning. If a child is failing, we fail. Their success is our success.”
  • “Differentiate student’s learning to include Black voices in curriculum. ”
  • “Identity development is important. Instilling greatness and pride in your Black students.”
  • “Set high expectations. These are smart kids who can excel at a high level with proper mentorship and guidance. Get them excited about what higher education can offer them, especially at an HBCU.”

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...