Inspirational figures at HBCU Fair spark hope for future students

Allen A. Buchanan, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Morehouse College alumnus Dr. Jaih Jackson, DDS emphatically expressed his gratitude for attending Morehouse College, one of the most noted historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) for young black male scholars.

“In the nature of this climate that we are living in today, it is very positive to be a black man, and that is what is reinforced at Morehouse College,” he said at the Suncoast Chapter Teens of Jack and Jill of America and Shorecrest Preparatory sponsored HBCU College Fair last month.

Dr. Jackson spotlighted the cultural and spiritual effectiveness of his alma mater, which graduated civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball legend Donn Clendenon and first board-certified African-American surgeon in North Carolina Charles Dewitt Watts, who founded Lincoln Community Health Center.

“There’s no other school that represents the black man, teaches the black man like Morehouse teaches the black man!”

Mt. Zion Progressive Youth Pastor Sean Thomas agrees with Dr. Jackson about the HBCU experience.

“These educational experiences have been designed specifically with them in mind, and I think it’s very important that they take advantage of that,” said Thomas.

Both Dr. Jackson and Thomas zeroed in on how important it is for African Americans to be comfortable in their own skin so they can be culturally and spiritually grounded.

Dentist and oral surgeon Dr. Kenyon Fort vividly described how academics, sense of community and spiritual with-it-ness came together for him during his undergraduate studies at Morehouse College.

“Life now is basically because of the experience I had at Morehouse,” said Fort, who shared how Morehouse not only prepared him to be a scholar in his field of study but also to be a well-rounded spiritually anchored human being.

“Morehouse helped me discover things about myself that I was not aware of. It put me in touch with the fact that I was a black man, and if I had the right attributes academically and also emotionally and socially, I could be prepared to do anything I want to in life.”

Dr. Fort, Pastor Thomas and Dr. Jackson have reached a level of professional accomplishment, community consciousness and spiritually that high school students who attended the college fair aspire to.

“I feel the HBCUs will put me in an environment where I feel I can be safe, informed and around my own people,” said King High School student Brandon Boomie.

Practically every alumnus who discussed the positive attributes of HBCUs communicated the same sentiment that Brandon hopes to experience if he gets accepted to one.

HBCUs may have some common similarities, but each has its own unique niche.

Eleventh-grader Amber Davidson was very impressed with what she found out about Xavier University in New Orleans.

“They say that they’re the school that produces the most African-American doctors, so I prefer Xavier,” she said.

Amber is correct! According to an article published in the New York Times by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Xavier produced more black students who applied and graduated from medical school than any other college institution in the United States.

The college’s success has been attributed to the university’s former president of 47-years Norman Francis, who died in 2015. Francis found an outspoken, non-traditional chemistry professor to come up with a collaborative community approach to tutoring where academically strong students in science courses helped their struggling peers until success was achieved.

The out-spoken Professor J.W. Carmichael did away with the competitive “look to your left; look to your right” weed out process. The youth Carmichael rescued came from poor communities where students did not have the basic chemistry and physics courses in high school.

Francis and Carmichael created a climate of cooperation, trust and altruism that broke down the walls of self-centered competitiveness.

The right fit

The Boca Ciega senior Miles Richardson said it is important to him to be surrounded by people that look out for one another academically by studying and working together to graduate.

Northeast High senior Kalla Priester has no doubt that Florida A&M University is for her based on the vibes she felt when she recently visited the school for the fall preview.

“The classes, they’re not as big…and the teachers actually take the time to know who you are and they motivate you,” she said, admitting that she needs motivation and not just a book thrown in her face.

On her college tour, Kalla observed that instructor’s classrooms were open for students if they needed help. This kind of atmosphere helps the student feel like they are a part of a family, and in turn, the student is more likely to reach out when they need help.

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School ninth-grader Karin McMillan wants her connection in and out of the university to be beneficial.

“That way the faculty can help network me into my jobs after I finish,” said McMillian.

With more than 700 in attendance and 32 schools representing, the free college fair helped students envision their future.

For more information about the Jack and Jill of America and Shorecrest Preparatory School annual HBCUs College Fair, you can contact Crystal L. Pruitt at (727) 637-8738 or email her at

To reach Allen Buchanan, email

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