Presenters share info, debunk myths about HBCU schools

Presenters share info, debunk myths about HBCU schools

Aidan Brophy

On April 25, for the first time in the district’s history, representatives from the Western Pennsylvania Council of Historically Black Colleges & Universities Alumni came to SAHS. Mr. Jeff Williams and Mr. Vincent Elliott were invited to debunk some common myths about HBCUs, as well as talk to students and staff about HBCUs as a higher education option for Shaler Area graduates.

The idea was first proposed by Ms. Shirell Brown, a community member on the SA Response to Racism Committee, and quickly gained steam. Mr. Nick Haberman, another member of the committee and head of the LIGHT Program, acted as a coordinator for the event.

According to Mr. Haberman, the Pennsylvania Council of HBCU Alumni “goes to Pittsburgh public schools, and goes to schools with a large percentage of African-American students… and [Shirell Brown] said ‘wouldn’t it be great if that organization came out to our school and talked about the opportunities HBCUs offer for all students, black or white?’”

As a Shaler Area alumni myself, I’m always interested in bringing opportunities to the school district that I didn’t have. Anything we can bring to the school district that introduces students to all of the different opportunities after graduation is a great idea.”

— Mr. Nick Haberman

After Brown brought up the idea, Mr. Haberan got into contact with Mr. Elliot, the co-founder of the Pennsylvania HBCU Alumni Council, and Mr. Williams, one of the council’s public event presenters.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Elliot gave a presentation in the auditorium during fourth period, discrediting some popular myths about HBCUs.

“It was both a history of the role historically black colleges and universities played in this country,” Haberman said. “It also introduced students to the opportunities that the over one hundred HBCUs can offer to students.”

One primary misconception is that HBCUs are primarily located in southern states. However, there are 101 spread out across the continental US, with two of the oldest here in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, the two alumni impressed upon students that these universities are open for all, not just students of color. In fact, as of 2020, nearly a quarter of all HBCU attendees were not African-American.

“HBCUs are not places of black excellence, they are places of excellence, and their opportunities are open to anyone,” Mr. Haberman said.

The two alumni sat in the cafeteria during fifth and sixth period if students wanted to talk further, or ask a question they didn’t get to during the presentation. They also spoke with the guidance office staff and counselors about making students aware of HBCUs as a post-high school option for higher education.

Mr. Haberman said this was an important experience for the students who got to speak with Mr. Williams and Mr. Elliot.

“As a Shaler Area alumni myself, I’m always interested in bringing opportunities to the school district that I didn’t have,” Haberman said. “Anything we can bring to the school district that introduces students to all of the different opportunities after graduation is a great idea.”