Last month, St. Paul’s Progressive Baptist Church (PBC) sent approximately 70 youth on a tour to visit seven Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the South. PBC is celebrating their 11thanniversary in providing youth with educational opportunities that instill an appreciation for their heritage, culture and aspirations to pursue higher education after high school.
Students from approximately 30 schools took part in the tour along with two nurses, one photographer, one security provider and 16 chaperones. During the tour, students received information on tuition and financial aid, ways that they can prepare themselves for college, and a glimpse at what campus life is like. The six-day tour included stops in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
On Monday, October 12, students, chaperones and parents met for departure at PBC, where Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Earl Miller and Rev. Dr. Melvin Miller provided words of encouragement. After arriving in Richmond, Virginia on Tuesday, October 13 in the evening, students and chaperones checked into the hotel and participated in a meet-and-greet.
Wednesday, October 14 students and chaperones toured Virginia State University and Virginia Union University, and on Thursday they toured the White House before proceeding to Howard University.
The group toured Norfolk Sate University and Hampton University on Friday, October 17.
Students and chaperones culminated the trip on Saturday by participating in the homecoming festivities at Virginia Union, watching the football game and the VU Marching Band at halftime.
Jo Ann Clark had a vision 11 years ago. Clark, who works in the education ministry at PBC, saw the need to provide African American students in the metro area with the chance to learn about educational opportunities relevant to their culture. With the help of Rev. Miller, the church pastor, the HBCU College Tour was born.
“Our young people need to be exposed to post-high-school educational opportunities. That’s why our education ministry worked so hard to make the goal of taking students to visit several HBCUs,” Rev. Miller is quoted as saying on the tour’s website.
The Progressive Education Ministry mission is to support youth, promote higher education, broaden their college choices, and educate students on the significance of HBCUs. According to some who went on the tour, those goals are being met.
“I liked how this trip can bring young educated African Americans together as a community from the state of Minnesota,” said Noah Jalloh, a senior at St. Paul Harding High School.
“I have been on many college tours though SPPS in Minnesota, but I have never been able to see myself at any one of those schools,” said Aja Burnside, a junior at Washington Technology Magnet Secondary School in St. Paul. “Going on this HBCU tour, I actually see myself going to Hampton University, Virginia State University, or even Norfolk. I have never felt that type of vibe from a college or university like that before. This was an eye-opening experience that really made me see my future and the possibilities in it.”
JoAnne Sumrall, a 1988 St. Paul Central graduate who served as one of nurses during the tour, was also inspired. “This is my fifth year on the Progressive Baptist Historical Black College-University tour,” she said. “I never had this encouragement, these role models, or this type of support when I was growing up.” Summrall’s daughter participated last year and is currently in her first year at Tuskegee University, an HBCU in Alabama.
During the bus ride back to St. Paul, Clark had participants email various media outlets (including MSR) about their experience and expressed her reasons for having them do so.
“It’s important for them to know that African Americans are doing positive things.”
For more information on next year’s tour or to make donations, contact the PBC College Tour at 612-568-4850, firstname.lastname@example.org or the tour website at pbccollegetour.wix.com/progressive.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald attended Central State University (CSU), an HBCU in Wilberforce, Ohio, graduating in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications (Journalism). He participated in the PCB HBCU College Tour as the photographer. His father, the late Kwame JC McDonald, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from CSU in 1954. Dr. McDonald teaches social studies at Johnson Senior High School in St. Paul.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.