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Commentary: HBCUs need their alumni and friends amidst COVID-19

Commentary: HBCUs need their alumni and friends amidst COVID-19
May 27
13:30 2020

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

The higher education landscape like all of America has been sidetracked by COVID-19. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have felt even more pain. When predominantly white institutions catch a cold, HBCUs get the flu.

In-class lectures have ended, and all laboratory work is no more. Faculty no longer have office hours. Students cannot sit on the block and talk about what is happening on the yard. College campuses are empty. They are shells of themselves.

If you are a member of the class of 2020, you thought you would hear your name called and you would go across the stage to receive your college degree. Your parents and loved ones would be in the stands with signs and cheering.

Well, this scene was not to be. The coronavirus stepped in and the class of 2020 had to step out. Colleges and universities have now had virtual graduations. Maybe in the coming months traditional commencements will be held. But not now.

Students not in the class of 2020 are at home and have been receiving online instruction. Zoom meetings and conference calls have created new ways of receiving information. Their days are structured, just in a different way.

New and returning students now are having to confirm and reaffirm their college choices. HBCUs are busy making sure that students will be returning to their schools in the fall. Student and parental engagement are extremely important during this pandemic.

HBCUs need their alumni to support them during this critical time in their history. If you attended a Historically Black College and University, you know the foundation for success that they gave us. My alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University, was instrumental and fundamental to my success. JCSU gave me the academic bearing and the confidence to blaze new paths and to become a difference-maker.

If you are a HBCU graduate, you have a similar story. You can readily and enthusiastically talk about what your HBCU means to you. Our pride stands out.

Just as we needed them back in the day to provide us with an education, they need us today to provide them with our monetary gifts and donations. Government and private funding streams are giving our schools temporary lifelines.  However, they will be short-lived. No one can tell you how much to give. The important thing is that you give.

Money received by HBCUs from the federal government will be used appropriately. Whether new monies come in for this pandemic is questionable. Regardless, we must give to our institutions.

Our Historically Black Colleges and Universities have many needs. Students who attend them have significant financial challenges. As alumni and friends, let us find out and help.  It could be providing funds so a student can pay off a school bill. Maybe contributing to the school’s gap scholarship fund will be your interest. Or paying for transportation costs to get a student back to campus.

There are countless ways of helping our beloved schools during this time of uncertainty. My college days are in my rear-view mirror; however, my commitment to JCSU is long lasting and forever. Our HBCUs are towering beacons of academic excellence. They have sealed us with honor and integrity.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

Do not let the days mount up before giving to our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

James B. Ewers Jr. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator and can be reached at ewers.jr56@nullyahoo.com.

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