When I decided to attend Central State University in Wilberforce, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect or if I would even fit in. 

Because I went to a suburban high school in the state of Ohio (Dublin Scioto HS), choosing to enroll at a historically black college and university, or HBCU, wasn’t always something I wanted to do—it wasn’t something I actually knew about. My counselors never informed me about HBCUs, the last jewel black people have left in this country. I was completely oblivious in regards to the black college experience. Upon further research, taking into consideration the cost of room and board, the location, and the rich history of the institution itself, my mind was sold on the idea of going to an HBCU, and in particular, attending CSU in fall 2010. 

As I got more confident about my decision, my friend’s mother would talk so ugly about the thought of me attending Central State. Almost all of my friends were going to the so-called better colleges like Ohio State University, Ohio University, Bowling Green State University, and Otterbein College. Deciding to go to CSU just felt like a decision I was going to regret later. 

Maybe Central State wasn’t a good fit for me. I remember thinking, “I’ll be surrounded by nothing but cornfields.” It made me question if going to an HBCU was even worth it. 

But when I stopped comparing myself to my peers, I saw that deciding to go to an HBCU could possibly be one of the best decisions I have ever made. (The best being becoming a member of the true Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in August 2018 😇.) I told myself that I would be given a second chance at my beloved CSU, not to mention the cheap price tag—Central State is the most affordable 4-year university in the state of Ohio—and the fact that I’ll be only an hour or so away from home given I need to abort mission on the school of my dreams. Not only that, but I also felt as though nothing was quite like the black college experience based on watching movies such as Stomp The Yard, Drumline, and later School Daze. 

The comments from my friend’s mother flooded my mind though, making me second-guess what I was learning about the black college experience. While I was on the internet, I was coming across a lot of bad reviews on CSU from former students and visitors of the institution, and I thought that attending the black college would not be in my best interests at all. Maybe Central State wasn’t a good fit for me. I remember thinking, “I’ll be surrounded by nothing but cornfields.” It made me question if going to an HBCU was even worth it. 

But I couldn’t deny what I felt when I had taken a college tour at CSU. If I knew that the small-campus was ideal and the basketball games are lit, then that meant that I did find a home away from home after all. It was undeniable. I knew that my next challenge would be experiencing the full black college experience for myself and trusting my gut feeling. 

I didn’t know anyone on campus. I made some friends during lunch at the cafe and went from there. I felt like I could do everything I didn’t do while in high school at Central State; I would try my hardest to be more active on and off-campus. When I had finally joined an organization on the yard that was opened to freshmen, the Brotherhood of Strong Success (B.O.S.S. Bros), a non-Greek step team, I exceeded my own expectations. I quickly became a valuable member of the team and even became the organization’s secretary all in my freshman year. But that didn’t stop me from joining others throughout my matriculation at college. 

Later I joined Tau Rho Beta, Student African American Brotherhood as Secretary, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. as Secretary and then President, CSU’s tennis team, the second chapter chartered at an HBCU of College Republicans, and more. I even found time to frequently write for an online newspaper called HBCU Buzz as a Staff Writer. Within a year I was named Editor-in-Chief of HBCU Buzz. Those feelings of failure from my friend’s mother, saying, “You should never go to Central State for any reason” were now obsolete as far as I was concerned. 

Now, being an alumnus of CSU, I know how far I have come from that quiet and shy black boy during high school. I don’t feel like I wouldn’t fit at an HBCU anymore. Yes, these institutions have their fair share of problems, but I have learned that the pros outweigh the cons. I know that there is nothing like the black college experience. 

I have also learned about the power of networking, being amongst like-minded individuals that look like me, and a safe space where we can be great and challenged mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially. Those doubts I had are no longer a thing. Choosing to go to an HBCU is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. Nobody got us like how we got us. 

I am so grateful for my black college experience and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have seen how it has made me a better man, and I know it will make a man out of others too.