“A once-in-a-lifetime thing.” Goodman Community Center takes teens on HBCU tour

Seven Madison students spent their spring break getting a glimpse of a possible future at a Historically Black College or University.

Goodman Community Center organized the trip, which was funded largely by a single donor. The youth and staff visited Kentucky State, Tennessee State, Alabama State and Georgia State University (which is not considered an HBCU but has a high Black student population). A storm got in the way of a planned visit to Fisk College in Nashville.

For Madison East student Shayla Coleman, attending an HBCU would continue a family legacy.

“I want to go to HBCU because my mom and my aunties and my cousin went to HBCUs. They told me about their experiences, and it just sounds like something I want to do,” she said.

She said the first thing she noticed at the campuses was a different feeling than she’s used to.

“It’s a cool vibe. Everybody is so friendly, talkative. Everybody be chillin,” she said. “Nobody was really excluded from anything. Everybody was able to get together in one place and just have fun.”

Still, she said she’s also paying attention to the schools’ academic programs, as well.

“When I look at schools, I look mostly at what I want to do when I get older, and their programs, and how successful people are in those programs,” she said. For Edwards, the programs she’s looking at right now are culinary and nursing programs.

Fellow Madison East student Willie Watkins is looking at business and engineering programs – something he found strongest at Alabama State.

“I wanted to see some different HBCUs because it’s not something I usually see in person. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said. 

“It’s very important” that  Goodman Center put together this trip, he said. “This opened an individual’s eyes to see something different, not just be stuck in a certain mindset to where it’s … these are the only options I’ve got.”

The best part of the trip was “Seeing the kids and how their faces lit up,” said Shantrice Solis, Goodman Community Center Community Engagement Specialist. “And (the students) seeing people that look like them in college spaces, all of them achieving amazing things.”

She and the teens added that other highlights of the trip included visits to southern soul food restaurants and even a night of karaoke.

Solis said plans are already underway for a similar trip next year, with the teens who went on this year’s trip taking the lead. Goodman Center is looking to raise $20,000 to get a bus this time, though.

“We had to drive squished in that van,” Solis said with a laugh.