The name “Howard University” brings to mind images of fabulous homecomings, vibrant Greek life, and the celebration of educated Black individuals. Hearing “Howard” also conjures visions of successful alumni like Thurgood Marshall, Taraji P. Henson, and Chadwick Boseman. In fall 2018, five BRYC Fellows embarked for Howard hoping to become part of the school’s storied narrative. Affectionately dubbed “The Howard Five,” Myles Gordon, Christalyn Hill, Jeanette Jackson, Malik Johnson, and Donovan Thomas have begun their journeys of fostering change in the world at The Howard University!

Starting freshman year, each of The Five wondered things like, “Will I have friends?…Thrive hundreds of miles away from home?…Receive the support I need for academic success?” Those fears were quelled from the moment they arrived on campus and experienced Howard’s rich learning environment and engaging instruction.

Myles complimented the university’s small classes and professors’ instructional techniques saying, “My professor asks a lot of questions, and we get to have a lot of discussions. They keep the students engaged.” He echoes the sentiments of thousands of students attending historically-Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, who appreciate the intimate and captivating environment. Many have noted that the smaller class sizes allow for dialogue that prompts students to consider a wide range of perspectives, preparing them to become impactful citizens post-college.

These College Fellows have also been moved by their peers. “Hearing what other people have accomplished pushes you to go out and try new stuff to build your character, résumé, and knowledge,” Christalyn said. “Everybody has been president of something or vice president or established their own club. It makes you feel like you’re not doing enough, but it pushes you as well.”

The Howard Five have also been inspired by two BRYC College Fellows in Howard’s Class of 2021, Armani Brown and Markelle Dunn. When asked about her experience, Armani said, “Going to an HBCU gives you the space to define and truly embody Black excellence. It’s almost like going to a cookout, but before the cookout, you have class.”

For its prestige and impressives students and faculty, Howard is compared to Ivy League schools, but there is a key difference. HBCUs – like Southern, Spelman, Bethune-Cookman, Howard, and many others – remind us that Black Americans had to fight and die for equal access to postsecondary education, and in so many ways that fight continues today. These institutions bring Black history and culture into focus and create spaces where students who are used to feeling marginalized feel valued and united. HBCUs highlight the incredible diversity between and among Black people while celebrating the intellectual and cultural power that bonds us. The Howard Five attest to being reminded of their strength as Black individualizes and have been inspired to pave the way for future students, as alumni have for them.

We look forward to seeing the impact The Howard Five will make as they join a legacy of College Fellows and Alumni who attend and have graduated from HBCUs across the country. More than that, we look for them to strengthen a tradition of Black postsecondary education that prepares students not just for professional excellence but also to become full participants in society.