A panel of LCPS graduates who charted their own paths examine HBCUs – Neuse News

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To the defining questions of what college and what career, add one about whether or not you benefit from attending a college whose culture and ethnic makeup more closely matches the fact that you are an African-American high school student.

Kinston High School set out to answer this and other questions with a virtual panel discussion last week that featured four LCPS graduates – all African American, a former and current student of HBCUs (Historically Black College and University) in the state, and two graduates of PWIs (Predominantly White Institutions). A group of KHS juniors connected with them virtually in a dialogue moderated by event organizer Briana Summers, the school’s distance learning coordinator.

“I wanted to do something special for Black History Month and celebrate black excellence in education. There’s nothing better than having recent Lenoir County alumni who are current students or recent graduates of HBCU and PWI talk with our students about their college experience, campus culture, and the variety of opportunities offered at their institutions,” Summers said after the event.

It’s the kind of idea that Jeremiah Fields, one of the panelists, could have used when he graduated from Kinston High in 2016. Expected at two universities in the UNC system, deterred by the cost of a college deprived despite being offered scholarships, he took the advice of a friend and applied to Winston-Salem State University “as a last resort”.

Arriving on a campus he had never visited, unaware of what sets HBCUs apart, Fields nevertheless accepted the experience. “It turned into the best four years of my life,” he told high school students.

He graduated in 2020 with a degree in business administration — a degree helped because he earned a business certificate from Lenoir Community College in high school — and with a long list of accomplishments on campus, from his work as a manager from game day operations for the athletic department to his involvement in the Student Government Association to his election as vice president of the freshman and sophomore classes and as Mr. Senior of the WSSU.

Unsurprisingly, Fields touted an HBCU’s sense of community, where a smaller campus and smaller class sizes make the transition from high school less shocking, where African-American students will find “people like you who have had experiences similar to you who are just as driven and like-minded,” Fields said. “You learn a lot about yourself by going to an HBCU.”

LCPS alumni Zaria Bell, a 2021 UNC-Pembroke graduate, added their voices to the discussion; Tlejah Chapman, 2021 graduate of UNC-Greensboro; and Bryson Jones, a sophomore at NC Central University.

Among the advice given by the panel to the high school students concerned:

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