The student face of North Carolina A&T State University James Bowen II recently won the title of Mr.HBCU. Bowen competed in 11-year-old competition against eight other hopefuls from eight different historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) in the country.

Arriving at the Black institution on a full academic scholarship as a freshman and wanting to “get out of my shell,” Bowen says, his first opportunity to lead was campaigning for the Mr. Freshman position at NCAT.

“In college, I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone and really go do things that I wouldn’t normally do,” Bowen told HBCU Buzz.

But James did not stop with one title, he took a bid for Mr. Junior and won, and of course, he also won Mr. A&T, a coveted position in HBCU culture.

“I always try to stay humble because there’s going to be a time where it comes where I’m not going to win,” he said.

According to Bowen, it is constitutionally required by the university that Mr. A&T also has to run for Mr. HBCU. But though it was technically obligated for him to run, he says he still wanted to represent A&T at the competition in the best light possible.

All contestants competed in four categories; Oratory, Talent, Ease of Manor (Formal Wear) and Q&A. Bowen won both the talent and oratory categories that eventually led him to take the win home to share with his fellow Aggies.

For James’ talent, he chose to perform a poem about his father. The dramatic presentation included him singing and reciting a self-written spoken word piece. James’ piece delved into the subject matter of his father passing when he was young he says, and Bowen not getting the chance to fully know him.

When asked how it felt to share such a personal piece with others, Bowen says, “When I perform any piece it gives me an opportunity to show people a side to me that they may not have known.”

After graduation Bowen says he plans to join the Teach for America organization for two years in Atlanta Georgia, and then attend another HBCU for Graduate school: “I’m Pro-HBCU,” Bowen said.

“…I believe HBCU’s are very important in today’s society. At one point in time I wasn’t able to attend Harvard or Yale, due to my skin color, we had to make our own because of this.

“…We as black people have to get back to a place where we value our institutions,” said Bowen.

As Mr. HBCU Bowen says he works with being pro HBCU as a foundation to be an advocate for recruitment, and without hesitation James names his brother first on his list of biggest influences in life, “When my father passed away my brother stepped in…he took out the time to develop me as young man, even now I can call him and ask him for advice.”

“Always be kind because you never know what someone else is going through, be respectful to anyone, and stay humble,” said Bowen.