GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (Feb.18,2014) — Choosing a college can be difficult, but a unique program called the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Tour Experience (HBCUTE) aims to help students in West Michigan by providing them with the opportunity to explore their options for higher education and history at the same time.
“The tours that we do are a bit unique. We offer not just a college tour, but a full cultural experience,” explained Garrett Fox, the Vice President of HBCUTE. “I’ve seen so many lives changed. I’ve seen students re-dedicate themselves to academics and push themselves to be what they were created to be.”
For more than 20 years, HBCUTE has been taking busloads of students from Grand Rapids to explore as many as 10 college campuses during Spring Break. The schools visited are all historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). There are more than 100 HBCUs across the country, with many located in southern states. They were established before 1964 to primarily serve the African-American community.
During the trip, the students also visit historic landmarks and locations like Civil War sites.
“We wanted to let those students know what’s out there,” said Earnestine Tolbert, who helped start the program. “Our students need this opportunity.”
Students from 8-12 grades can sign up to take the tour, which costs around $500 dollars. Fundraisers are held throughout the year to offset the costs, which are estimated to be closer to $1,200 dollars per student.
“I’m pretty sure that going on the tour really made a difference in my life,” Keli Christopher told FOX 17 News. Christopher, who attended North Carolina A&T, went on to get her PhD. “It wasn’t a hard decision to make, honestly. It was a place where I knew I’d get a good education.”
This year’s tour is scheduled for April 6th-13th, visiting Alabama and Tennessee.
“Some of the students are kind of reluctant to go in the beginning, but once they leave on Sunday, by the time they come back on the following Sunday it’s a whole different person,” said HBCUTE President Kathi Harris. “They’ve seen a lot, they’ve learned a lot…For them to have those opportunities, it’s a benefit for them.”
Grand Rapids Public Schools has partnered with HBCUTE. Last year students from four GRPS high schools participated. Students also come from other cities in Michigan and other states,
The group will be holding a fundraiser this weekend to help raise money for the 2014 trip. For more information, click here.
To learn more about HBCUTE, click here.