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Woman visits over 90 HBCUs on mission to bring the experience to students

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(NEW YORK) — A New Jersey woman is on a mission to bring the HBCU experience to students who might not know about or realize the many historically Black colleges and universities serving students today.


Eleise Richards, an alumna of Howard University, started in 2016 with a college fair in her hometown of Irvington, New Jersey, which has now grown into the nonprofit Experience the Legacy.

She drew on her personal experience as a first-generation college student and the daughter of Jamaican immigrants who weren’t familiar with the American college process.

“I didn’t know about HBCUs. I didn’t grow up in a school system that taught us or encouraged us to attend HBCUs. I only knew about Howard because my best friend told me she wanted to go,” Richards told “Good Morning America.”

Richards said she had “the very best time” when she attended Howard, often regarded as one of the top historically Black universities in the U.S., and wanted to introduce what she had and more to students who might not be able to afford to visit an HBCU in person.

“I wanted to make sure students from neighborhoods and communities that look like mine, have the real information, have the resources, have the access to recruiters, to alumni, to learn more about these schools and truly assess whether it’s a good fit for them and consider them when they’re thinking about their future college journey,” Richards said.

But after running her hometown college fair for two years, she realized she didn’t know much about many of the HBCUs that sent representatives to showcase their schools.

“I realized it feels a little disingenuous to me, to host and encourage kids to attend these schools when I don’t really know much about a lot of them myself. I knew a good amount, but I didn’t know many of them still and I know that’s pretty common,” she said.

So in 2020, Richards embarked on a bucket list trip to visit as many HBCUs as she could, splitting her journey into three legs.

“We just started with all the East Coast schools down from New Jersey to North Carolina and that’s how this trip began,” Richards explained.

In the fall of 2023, Richards was able to complete her goal of visiting all the four-year HBCUs and a few community colleges within the contiguous states, from schools like Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama and Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas to Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

“In total, it ended up being 93 schools, every four-year degree-granting HBCU in North America,” the 35-year-old said.

“It’s very diverse. It’s not made up of just Black and brown students,” she said of the schools she visited. “There are students from all walks of life, all types of different countries. There’s just a lot of misconceptions out there.”

Experience the Legacy’s next college fair, free for students, parents, and community members, will be held in September.
 

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