Shelicia Collier doesn’t care where her daughter chooses to attend college, she just wants her to continue to pursue her education after high school.
“There’s no specific college that I want her to go to,” Collier said. “I would love for her to go to an HBCU, but it’s her choice. I’m letting her pick where she wants to go.”
Out of the 11 colleges that Collier’s daughter, 17-year-old Yunique Palmer, has applied to thus far, six are historically Black colleges or universities. Howard University in Washington, D.C., is her top choice.
“I want to bond and have a connection,” Yunique said of her desire to attend an HBCU. “It’s my culture. It’s my people.”
That’s why Collier and Yunique went to the Malcolm Bernard HBCU College Fair Wednesday afternoon at the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters.
An estimated 3,000 students attended the fair, where 42 HBCUs were on site offering applications and admission. For two decades, the Malcolm Bernard fair has been connecting students and HBCUs, said Barbra Bernard, executive director of the event named in honor of her late husband.
“We’ve been connecting HBCUs to students and students to HBCUs for 20 years now,” Bernard said.
The fair is regional and kicked off in New York City, had events in New Jersey, and then came to Philadelphia. The free event also hosted panel discussions and workshops and was held in conjunction with the SDP.
“This is important for the students of Philadelphia to have the opportunity to learn about the heritage of historically Black colleges and universities,” Bernard said. “There are two colleges here in Pennsylvania, Lincoln University and Cheyney University, and those are ones that a lot of students are interested in, as well.”
The fair is special for Bernard. She and her husband graduated in1967 from Hampton University in Virginia, which they called their “home by the sea.”
Bernard said she has a passion for education and giving back.
“A young lady said she was so happy to come because she had some things happen in her past that were unfortunate, but now she was seeing a different path that she can take,” Bernard said, referring to the college stop in Trenton, N.J. “It just really warms my heart to see so many students have their eyes open to the opportunities that are out there for them.”
Jaylin Pitts, a high school senior in Burlington, N.J., said he’d rather go to an HBCU than any other school.
“I have a couple of friends who went to HBCUs, and when I look at their social media it just looks fun,” he said.
Jaylin filled out an application to the University of the District of Columbia. He’s also applying to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Delaware State University.
Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School basketball teammates Jaymes Savage and Scott Spann Jr., both 17, applied and were accepted into the same schools, including Philander Smith College, Virginia Union University and Bowie State University.
“We’re trying to get a full scholarship,” Savage said.
Nzinga Suluki-Bey, a 17-year-old student at Science Leadership Academy, said her top choices were Hampton, North Carolina A&T and Johnson C. Smith University. Nzinga said a lot of her family members went to Hampton, so she’s a Hampton legacy.
“I grew up in a family of HBCU graduates,” she said. “I used to think the statuses of HBCUs were low, but I think it’s the baseline to help us rise above what others think we’re not capable of.”