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4 Ways my HBCU has Contributed to My Success and Where I Am Today

By Karisma Palmer

Spelman College

HBCU Success

So many factors go into choosing the right college. As a first-generation college student from a small town in Southeast Georgia I had no clue what attending an HBCU would do for my life and how it would shape my overall success. 

While success in general is defined by those who achieve it there are certain factors that help you get to a goal in general. 

In life you need certain elements to be successful and some things cannot be bought or taught. They just have to be experienced. My HBCU taught me so many things through my experiences on campus that directly contributed to my success. Here’s what it has done for me. 

1.My HBCU Inspired Me: It has been stated that the greatest thing you can do is inspire someone else. I was 12 years old when I had my first encounter with HBCU culture. I attended a football classic game that came to my hometown. I could not believe my eyes. It was a group of people (cool college kids) who looked like me. I fell in love with the unity and beauty of what my future could be. I knew I wanted to be a part of this.

When I graduated high school I vividly remember being the exception to the rule. I graduated as the salutatorian of my highschool with a 4.3 GPA. However, when I walked the campus of the best HBCU in the world, Spelman College (in case anyone was wondering) I realized that there were valedictorians and salutatorians- everywhere. I was completely inspired and moved to be the best and most driven student I could be simply because I was surrounded by Black excellence. Celebrities Oprah, Diddy, and Vice President Kamala Harris are all HBCU graduates. I knew I wanted to be among the best of the best but I also knew that It takes a certain level of self-love and pride in your identity to achieve at a high level. You have to believe in who you are and your gifts. But the HBCU student success rate is impressive and it’s simply because it’s a large gathering of the brightest minds in the culture.

2. My HBCU Empowered Me: I enjoyed my high school experience so much. I was pretty active and being from a small town everything seemed comfortable and somewhat diverse. I vividly remember leaving campus after my first semester for winter break. I pulled into the parking deck at GSU in Atlanta with a relative. I looked around and saw no students who looked like me. I sat there in shock realizing that for the first time in my life not once did I have to worry about if I would be judged for what I looked like. I had experienced what it was like to be free from worrying about any judgment because of my culture or race. Spelman College like many other HBCUs was a safe space for me. In my opinion, to be empowered is the best recipe for success. 

3. My HBCU Educated Me: No. I am not talking about getting a regular four year college degree. The type of liberal arts education that my HBCU provided was intense. Looking at my college transcript stresses me out even today. For the first time in my life I was truly challenged with rigor. It taught me how to think outside of the box and how to challenge not only myself but all norms. As a sociology major I learned the structures of the society in which we live and how to exist and flourish within it. I also for the first time in my life was taught about my Gullah Geechee culture from an institution of learning. I sat in an African Diaspora and the World (ADW) course as a freshman at Spelman and the professor turned on a documentary The Language You Cry In. It was about my own culture in my small hometown. I had never seen it prior to college.

4. My HBCU Challenged me: My older Spelman sister Carla once told me: “College is about what you can complete”. Honestly Spelman was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was hard but going through that experience taught me that I am stronger than I know and that I can overcome anything. I am without a doubt more resilient because of my HBCU experience and when things get hard I always remember lessons I learned from my Spelman sisters and Morehouse brothers. 

I am so grateful that I chose to attend an HBCU. The bonds that I have built, the lessons I have learned, and the very unique experiences that can only be found at an HBCU have been a huge part of my life. 

I am forever grateful to Spelman for teaching me how to navigate this world as a Black woman. I am thankful that I know a bit more about myself because I attended an HBCU.

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