As the month of February, Black History Month, comes a close, I wanted to share some thoughts about the culminating event. Yesterday, I presented on “The Legacy of Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs)”. The presentation was poorly attended but well received. I am a proud graduate of an HBCU, Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. HBCUs are a part of the proud tradition of creating Black Educators, as many, if not most of them were founded as “normal” or teaching institutions in an effort to create more literacy after emancipation. I was minted at HBCUs and so were many successful African-Americans. These institutions, like our community colleges, take students, inspire and motivate them, instill hope in them, get them to dream big dreams, and get them to believe in themselves. That’s what Morgan did for me and that is what we should be doing at community colleges for our students. The HBCUs are successful in graduating their students because they put those students first. That is what we should be doing at a community college such as MCCC – putting all students first.
I never felt like a second class citizen at Morgan, and when I taught at Talladega and Lincoln (Missouri), I ensured that I went out of my way to do for those students what Morgan had done for me. Now, those students are reaching out to me on Facebook and telling me how much I impacted their lives. We must put students first in everything that we do as educators. It cannot and should never be about us. It must always be about the students. My instructors at Morgan took a personal interest in a directionless, first-generation college student and they molded me and shaped me into the person that I am today. I went to Morgan not sure about my major, with no money, inadequate housing, and all alone, with my family thousands of miles away. I was poor, lonely, and clueless. I am sure there are many like me here at MCCC today.
I am who I am today because my Upward Bound counselors – Mrs. Reckley and Mr. McCloud saw the lost look in my eyes and allowed me to join the Upward Bound Program. I am successful (my mom thinks so) today because my Biological Science professor, Dr. Jerkins told me that he thought I was “sharp”. I persevered because Mr. Hutt, my Accounting I, professor (after the first examination) said “you should be an Accounting major”. I was inspired because Dr. Whittaker and Dr. Amegbe, my Economics professors felt me worthy of substitute teaching their classes. I was honored because Dr. Stansbury gave me the opportunity to join the Honors Program. I expanded my horizons because Dr. McIntyre compelled me to join the French Club. I am grateful because as I struggled with my master’s thesis, Dr. Spencer took hours to personally sit down in the library with me to read (computers did not exist then) through the almost “final draft”.
After all the nurturing and mentoring at Morgan, it is no wonder that I modeled that in my own teaching and entire career. No matter what I do, I always put students first. When students are successful, we are successful. I thank all my professors and mentors at Morgan for instilling in me those qualities that have made me a better person.