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Panel discussion aims to give high school students a better understanding of HBCUs

granite monument with Central State logo
Tana Weingartner
Central State is one of two HBCUs in Ohio. The other is Wilberforce. Both are located in Wilberforce, Ohio.

A roundtable event Saturday aims to offer high school students insight into attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from the perspective of current students and alumni.

The mission, according to panelist Latoya Turner, founder and CEO of Brown Hands and a coaching specialist with The Literacy Lab, is to bring awareness to HBCUs and make sure local students know HBCUs are an option.

"HBCUs, of course, they've been around for a long time, but they have not been getting the publicity that they should until recently," Turner says. "It's important for high school students or kids at an early age to learn the importance of HBCUs because when it's time for them to go to college, hopefully that's the choice."

Turner expects to cover a range of topics, including the benefits of attending an HBCU, a discussion of the "Divine Nine," (historically Black fraternities and sororities) and their role on campus and beyond, as well as some of the challenges associated with attending an HBCU.

"Sometimes people may say HBCUs are expensive, but depending on what HBCU you choose, there's a lot of different resources and financial aid for people to attend these HBCUs. And then another challenge can be, HBCUs are not in all states, for example."

Turner says everyone should get something from the conversation. It may resolve some misconceptions, too.

"High school students should definitely do their research about HBCUs because a misconception could be you might not get the education at an HBCU — there's a lot of different misconceptions about not getting the proper education at an HBCU, or it may be like a party school, but that's not the case," she concludes.

The roundtable is Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Walnut Hills branch library from 3-5 p.m. The program is free but registration is required.

Ohio has two HBCUs: Central State University and Wilberforce University. Both are located near Xenia in the town of Wilberforce. In fact, Wilberforce University lays claim to being the nation's oldest private HBCU.

Kentucky also has two HBCUs: Kentucky State University in Frankfort and Simmons College in Louisville. Martin University in Indianapolis, Ind. is a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI), but is not considered an HBCU because it was founded after the 1964 cut-off date.

A brief history of Central State and Wilberforce

The two schools actually started off as one.

Wilberforce University was founded in 1856 as a collaboration between the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and was the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans. Forced to close during the Civil War due to declining enrollment and lack of funds, it was purchased and reopened by the AME Church in 1863.

After the purchase, AME Bishop and one of the original founders, Daniel A. Payne, became the first Black American college president in the U.S.

The Ohio General Assembly in 1887 began funding Wilberforce University, ending its private school status and establishing a combined teachers' program and industrial department. In 1947, the program legally split from Wilberforce University and was renamed as the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce, Ohio. In 1951, it was renamed Central State College and eventually gained university status.

Wilberforce University is named for 18th century abolitionist William Wilberforce. It was the nation's first private HBCU and the fourth overall.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.