This Black History Month, City Colleges of Chicago faculty and staff are sharing their HBCU success stories and explaining how their time at an HBCU impacts their work today. 

Read more from Ayana Haaruun, Manager of Instructional Design, below.

Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to attend an HBCU. Initially, I couldn’t afford it so I ended up at another college that wasn’t a good fit for me. It was there that I became determined to make my dream of being an HBCU graduate a reality.

I wanted to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., but Howard and D.C. are expensive. Still, I talked to a good friend about transferring to Howard and we decided to apply together. We both got in and moved to D.C. We were living in a closet-sized apartment and sharing a twin bed, but we were happy.

I was so captivated by the energy at Howard. I met all these interesting Black people from all over the world who were very cool and very interested in education. I knew immediately I was in the right place, and I got to work acclimating. I got a job as a lifeguard for the Howard pool, and I studied hard. I majored in political science with a focus in Black politics.

My first semester at Howard was the first time in my life I ever got straight As. I was so engaged in what I was learning. I was learning about the world and how things came to be for Black people in the diaspora, even in my Spanish and math classes.

The opportunities afforded to me at Howard were unique. I interned with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Smithsonian’s Center for African American History and Culture. I listened to prominent Black theologians at the Howard University chapel on Sundays. I connected with a community of Black natural health practitioners and Black vegans. What I learned from them still informs my day-to-day life.

Ayana during her college days at Howard University.

I also developed relationships with people from all around the world. There were Haitians, Jamaicans, Africans, and students from Europe who attended Howard. I later visited Tanzania to spend time with a Howard friend and his family who live there. I met students who were pure geniuses. It helped me widen my network while giving me a broad look into who Black people are around the world.

Before coming to work at City Colleges, I was a teacher at another HBCU, Jackson State University. I learned there that possibilities are limitless because the students were doing incredible things with limited resources. I carried that with me to City Colleges because I know what’s possible for these students.

My time at an HBCU also heavily influences my work as Manager of Instructional Design. I ask myself when designing online courses, what’s the best or easiest way to deliver course content to students? How do we connect with students and create the most engaging online courses so they have working knowledge that they can use to obtain good jobs and get to work?

HBCUs are an amazing option for students because of the quality of faculty and retention rates can be higher for African American students at HBCUs. HBCUs provide you with a network that will last a lifetime.