GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For many Black students, home is where historically Black colleges and universities are. HBCUs are places of acceptance and a learning environment that celebrates being Black in America.
It’s why Lee Moyer and his wife, Tonja, attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro.
Lee Moyer reflected on the first time he saw her in school.
“She had on this dress, and she had this glow. I saw the glow, and I was like, ‘man, this is beautiful,'” said Lee Moyer. “That’s what A&T did for me; it gave me my wife.”
As a child of a North Carolina A&T grad, Lee Moyer went to the HBCU because it was in his blood.
“For me, that was it, all day long,” he said.
Tonja Moyer went because it was in her destiny.
“I remember stepping foot on A&T’s campus and went this is where I want to go,” said Tonja Moyer. “I felt that sense of community when I went to the university just to visit.”
HBCUs, like A&T, were started in the 1800s for former slaves and free Black people. Black churches, white missionaries and philanthropists played a role in founding HBCUs, giving African Americans access to education since they were denied that human right.
“When you go to an HBCU, you know what it feels like to belong,” said Tonja Moyer. “You get that support system.”
Lee Moyer agreed, saying, “It gives you pride for being a Black in America and being able to go out and be successful.”
Since their inception, the U.S. Department of Education reports HBCUs have “provided undergraduate training for 75% of all Black Americans holding a doctorate; 75% of all Black officers in the armed forces; and 80% of all Black federal judges.”
Notable HBCU grads include Orpah Winfrey, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Megan Thee Stallion, Will Packer, 2 Chainz and the late Chadwick Boseman.
“You have a chance to see people like you, interact with people like you and people are there to achieve and be scholarly,” said Lee Moyer.
Most importantly, HBCUs give students a familial environment, especially during homecoming.
“If you’ve seen Beyonce’s Coachella performance, that gives you a snippet of what it’s like to be at an HBCU homecoming,” said Tonja Moyer. “There is nothing like it.”
Eulaya Powell, a junior at Wyoming High School, longs for this experience.
“It would be monumental for me,” she said. “It’s about putting that knowledge back in my community.”
Powell told News 8 she wants to go to an HBCU that will best prepare her to become a lawyer.
“I want to be someone that people remember that people can look up to and be proud of,” said Powell.
With time, anything is possible for future HBCU students like Powell.
“I’ve really been looking at Howard, North Carolina A&T,” said Powell. “Those are my top two right now.”
Who knows? Powel could meet the love of her life while having the time of her life, just like the Moyers.
“Can I get an Aggie pride?” said Tonja Moyer.
Although HBCUs were founded to educate Black students, they enroll students of other ethnic backgrounds. According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, non-Black students make up 24% of enrollment at HBCUs.