Homecoming: The Importance of Paying it Forward

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Atiya S. Strothers

If you are a parent who has or has had a child in college, the moment in which they come home is often met with feelings of joy, love, happiness, anticipation, and a grocery list of the student’s favorite foods. Preparation is done at home to make sure their room is how they left it, or in some cases, a tad cleaner. The college student may find new things at home that were not present before and most importantly the people they care for dearly are the ones that make a visit home worthwhile. This same feeling and experience is what happens during this season of homecoming seen at colleges and universities across the country.

Homecomings at HBCUs are rich in tradition and bring thousands of alumni, their families, and friends together. It is a time of reconnecting, reminiscing, and creating new memories. There are many memorable moments at homecoming including the homecoming bazaar, step show, tailgating, and of course the band (who really watches the game?). The experience of an HBCU homecoming undoubtedly holds a special place in the hearts of many alumni.

HBCUs do not have the large endowments of their historically white peer institutions; therefore alumni giving plays a major part in the sustainability of these institutions and traditions. Just as much as the tailgating and band are engrained in the culture of a HBCU homecoming, so should be the idea of making a contribution to your alma mater.

At Morgan State University, President David Wilson implemented ‘The Five Dollar Scholarship Fund’ reflecting his personal story. On the day he went to college, his father was very proud to give him five dollars to send him off. This fund offers the opportunity for many alumni to donate throughout the year and during homecoming season. The ‘Fine Line of 79’ of the Alpha Gamma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. exemplified this idea as they came together to donate $1,260 towards this fund as they celebrated 35 years on Morgan’s yard. Similarly, Howard University (HU) launched a “Bridging the Gap Student Aid Campaign.” Through various avenues, including social media, the campaign has become known to many. The HU classes of 1971-1983 donated $25,000 to their alma mater towards this campaign during homecoming. These campaigns are in place to help students and are examples that no matter the amount, every dollar counts when you are continuing the mission of providing quality education.

Black alumni are recognizing the importance of giving back to their institutions in order to support the next generation of HBCU scholarship. This is critical for the Black community overall. Blacks have tremendous buying power in the United States — $1 trillion worth. What would happen if we used more of that power and put it into our businesses and our schools?

Investing in our HBCUs is an act of ‘paying it forward.’ As we make our way home and indulge in the nostalgic places, foods, and memories, imagine what momma would think if we not only came home, but we also brought something back to invest in our home. During this season of homecoming, I dare you to ‘pay it forward.’

Atiya S. Strothers is a Ph.D. Student in the Theory, Organization, & Policy (TOP) Program in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University.

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