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 Brandon Davis, Director of Strategic Enrollment Initiatives at City Colleges, below.

I can admit, I struggled in high school. I wasn’t the best student, and I didn’t have big dreams. I thought the highest I could go with my career would be finding a job as a cashier in a grocery store and that became my ultimate end goal.

An encounter my mom had with a family friend shifted my mindset, my career goals, and my life. The family friend was a graduate of the Historically Black College/University (HBCU) Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. She told my mom it would be a good fit for me.

My mom and I visited, and I instantly felt at home. I loved the people and the culture. I felt like this was the place where things would turn around for me—and they did. I jumped into life at Central State with both feet. I joined every organization I could on campus, I took advantage of every opportunity the college offered to travel, and I worked in admissions to share my story with prospective students.

There was a strong support system at my HBCU, and the staff was dedicated to my success. My time at Central State University changed my entire trajectory. I no longer wished to be a cashier in a grocery store. Central showed me there were so many more career options available to me. They taught me relationship building and the power of networking. They allowed me to have a network of friends who are now doctors, lawyers, politicians, and pastors. I still talk to my friends from Central State every day, and I keep in touch with my professors.

Brandon Davis at Central State University.

Central helped me develop a passion for urban education and for helping students discover new pathways in life—ones they had never previously considered. It’s a passion that fuels my career as Director of Strategic Retention Initiatives at City Colleges. My experience at Central has motivated me to help students enroll in college, stay in college, and support those first-generation students who may not have someone with college experience in their corner.

My advice to any student, especially a City Colleges student considering an HBCU, is to visit. Talk to the professors and students there and walk around campus. It’s a great way to continue the culture of support you have here at City Colleges. I think you’ll find a strong network of people who will support you for the rest of your life.

HBCUs need more exposure. They’re still extremely relevant today. They give students the opportunity to see something they’ve never seen before, and they can change students’ lives.