Alfred Street Baptist Church and the ASBC Foundation recently organized one of the largest college recruitment events in the country for historically Black colleges and universities, with nearly 16,000 registrants embarking on a journey to make a college education a reality.
The 17th annual HBCU Festival, held Saturday Feb. 23 at the Walter Washington Convention Center, offered on-the-spot college acceptances, tryouts for college band and choral groups, and seminars on making it to college including navigating the application process. A big attraction was onsite awarding of more than $5 million in scholarships and financial aid.
“I’m overwhelmed!” was an oft-repeated statement during the free event, but more than 500 volunteers from the church were on hand to guide the huge crowds to all of the offerings.
“About three-fourths of our members at Alfred Street have gone to an HBCU,” said Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, the church’s pastor. “They want to ensure the generations coming up behind us realize the relevance of HBCUs.”
Opening the festival was the Delaware State University marching band. The drumline alone got the audience going. Following opening remarks from a few speakers, a combined Divine Nine step show had parents whooping and hollering when their fraternity or sorority did their routine.
Brooke Lawson, a 10th-grader from Alexandria, Va., and her parents Ingrid Bynum and Mike Lawson made the rounds to several booths in the exhibit hall. Though college is still a few years off for Brooke, she and her parents said this is the right time to begin exploring educational possibilities.
“On the HBCU side, we’ve been looking at Fisk, Spelman, Xavier and Hampton because she wants to go into pre-med,” Bynum said. “We’re also looking at the University of Maryland at College Park where I and her father attended. We just feel the HBCUs have a closer-knit community and will support her better.”
Facebook sponsored the festival for a second year.
“HBCUs are a pillar in our education system,” said Chris Randle, a Howard University alumnus who works in Facebook’s government affairs office. “Facebook needs people who are diverse working for us, that is why we are here.
“I get so excited when I see all of these young minds here thinking about attending an HBCU,” he said. “I want them all to know the world is theirs. If they go to these amazing schools, they will be nurtured, they will be educated, they will be enriched, and they will be ready to tackle the jobs of the future.”