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How HBCUs Create Lifelong Bonds

A photo a me (third from left) as Miss NC A&T

As a product of the Washington, DC area, I was fortunate to grow up with countless examples of Black excellence. I had no trouble envisioning myself as a successful, professional woman. Because I’d done well in high school, I knew I could go to just about any college of my choosing. But when I first set foot on the gorgeous campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC, I immediately felt at home in a way that I hadn’t at the familiar DC area schools or the other institutions I had toured.

As an academic and athletic scholarship recipient, I was assigned to live in the honors dorms, then called “The Village.” As soon as I was (dating myself here) *mailed* my housing information with my roommate’s name, I immediately went to Facebook to find her – primarily with the intention of gauging sanity, compatibility, and coordinating dorm decor because…priorities. Without knowing each other, we had both individually selected the same hot pink, brown, and white color palette that permeated 2000s teen decor. Please spare us any judgment; this was a wild time for fashion across the board and Facebook memories won’t let me forget it.

What started as a random room assignment turned into one of the absolute best blessings of my college experience – my sister Ashley. We went from roommates freshman year to suitemates during our sophomore and junior years. Despite my move to an on-campus apartment after becoming Miss North Carolina A&T in our senior year, Ashley was still at my side as my Royal Attendant.

Fast forward to Spring 2022: Our girlfriends group visited Ashley at her first home to celebrate the milestone, and exactly one month later, I closed on my first home. Time and distance do not matter to us. We are always in alignment, and as our shared tattoo states, we are our “Sister’s Keeper.”

A few photos of Ashley and me through the years. From left to right:  Our first photo; on A&T’s Royal Court as seniors; Spring 2009; Spring 2022…still together, still laughing

Now beyond my immediate sister-roommate, there was something special about the third floor of Village 6, now known as McNeil Hall. Over time, our floormates and most frequent visitors all achieved individual successes that fit their personalities and purposes. Here are a few examples: 

  • Christian, who lived two doors down from Ashley and me, served as our freshman and sophomore class president and eventually, student body president. Since college, Christian has worked on Capitol Hill and in the Obama White House. He recently graduated from Howard University School of Law. 
  • Justin, Christian’s high school best friend, lived in the dorm across from The Village. Since graduation, we’ve both established PR and marketing careers in the retail and consumer packaged goods industries. After six years in New York City, Justin recently moved to Charlotte where he continues to climb the retail marketing ladder.
  • Sylvia is a dear sister-friend and fellow journalism alum who lived with Ashley and me during our junior year. Sylvia now lives in Los Angeles where she is a full-time independent journalist and producer. She has interviewed A-list celebrities for cover stories with the most recognizable media and entertainment brands in the world. 
  • Autumn lived two doors down from Ashley and me. While Autumn transferred after freshman year, she remained family. After graduating, we proclaimed that we would work together in the future. In 2019, she joined me at The Home Depot. Today, we are still a dynamic duo in Atlanta. We help each other achieve our personal and professional goals with her chocolate lab Moose and my Pomeranian, Prince, in tow.
HBCU lifelong bonds
From left to right: Christian, Sylvia, me, Autumn, Ashley, and Justin at the 2018 Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

I could go on endlessly about the exceptional humans I built lasting bonds with while living in The Village and at A&T in general. I truly wish this could be a “How it started vs. How it’s going” yearbook because, to quote Kellie from HBO’s Insecure, “Everyone I associate with is thriving… in abundance… limitless.”

Now for the big question: How does this concentration of exceptionalism occur? It all comes down to character and community. It takes a certain type of person to choose an HBCU, especially when the options are plentiful and society has taught you to devalue Blackness, particularly an HBCU education. Choosing an HBCU is an investment in yourself and your community. The choice reclaims Black institutions as worthy while simultaneously affirming your own worthiness. The deepened exposure to Black diasporic history and global contributions to modern society affirms our power and potential in a world that often tries to strip away any and all confidence.

Before the Black Lives Matter movement put the world’s white-hot spotlight on investing in and uplifting Black and Brown communities and institutions, HBCUs had been doing so for over 100 years. HBCUs are serving, educating, and impacting the all too frequently marginalized and forgotten. Many students have recognized this HBCU legacy and actively choose to join their ranks, not simply out of convenience, but because their values align with the values and purposes of HBCUs. 

Lastly, HBCUs are excellent at creating enthusiastic communities that remain invested long after graduation and, no matter the institution attended, the HBCU experience unites us all. It’s why alumni excitedly look to provide insight, connections, and opportunities to graduates of our alma maters and other HBCUs. If you are blessed to experience an HBCU and you capitalize on your brief time there, you will change for the better. There is no other option because it is ingrained in the campus and ordained by the people who paved the way for your presence there. We grow because our community needs us at our ever-evolving best. 

I am grateful for my Aggies and I thank God for A&T. 

Jasmine Gurley
The 77th Miss North Carolina A&T State University
Former Home Depot Associate and Retool Your School Publicist
Director of Public Relations & Communications for Morehouse College

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