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IPS Students get Front Row Seat at HBCU Virtual Tours

IPS students recently got a taste of college life and opportunity to explore Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) thanks to the IPS and Brogdon Family Foundation HBCU Virtual Tours events.

The tours gave IPS students the opportunity to learn about colleges outside of their usual sphere. For many students, in-state schools have much more visibility, and HBCUs often are not even on a student’s radar. 

Kim Sims Fagan, a resource associate at Arsenal Technical High School’s Future Center, said the virtual tours were a response to the pandemic. HBCUs traditionally set up shop during career fairs, where students can talk with representatives from the schools one-on-one. But the pandemic shut down the fairs, leaving the schools without the chance to recruit IPS students. 

So instead of setting up a school visit, or sending a representative to a school, the four participating schools — Kentucky State University, Morehouse College, Howard University, and Tennessee State University — each created a virtual presentation. Representatives discussed their school’s history, academic and social programs, campus life, financial aid and scholarships, then conducted a virtual streaming tour of campus. 

Most participants were IPS high school students, but some students in Grades 7 and 8 attended as well, giving them additional time to build excitement about the prospect of attending an HBCU. 

“It exposes them to and gives them an opportunity to look at other universities, and gives them an eye-opener for the opportunities at other schools out there,” Fagan said. “There are students there that came from their neighborhood, and they can see what they did. They help them want to go to school and make it. You don’t have to be a product of your environment.”  

In addition, the visits gave students a common point of reference and the chance to see that not all college environments are large and impersonal, and that HBCUs often have a different feel than larger universities.

“These are institutions where the students there look like them and probably came from an environment like them, and they made it,” Fagan said. “They’re not just a number. It’s often in a smaller setting, and the teachers know you and will do everything they can to make sure you graduate.”

Positive Supports Academy freshman Rochelle Harris participated in the Tennessee State University tour. Though she said she’s probably going to stay close to home for college, she appreciated the chance to learn about schools outside of Indiana.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about other colleges,” she said. “It was good to learn about the details of the schools and scholarship opportunities.” 

And creating that awareness is vital: a poll showed only 30% of IPS 8th grade students were even aware of HBCUs. Those who attended have a better idea of what HBCUs are, what they can offer them, and whether they’re a viable option as they make their college decisions.

The HBCU virtual tours were hosted by IPS in collaboration with the Brogdon Family Foundation.