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Students explore HBCU, HSI options at expos

Widening opportunity’s doorways

Godwin Heights — When 12th-grader Rashaad Dorsey walked up to the doors of Chicago State University last spring, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I had never been to a college expo before,” he recalled. “I was hoping there would be a lot of different schools there and opportunities, but I really didn’t know what would be beyond the door.”

Rashaad Dorsey

Rashaad was one of about 40 Godwin Heights students who attended the Black College Expo last spring at Chicago State University. He also was one of 15 students to attend the event this fall when it was held at Detroit’s Wayne State University.

The goal of the expo is to raise awareness about college offerings, said Godwin Heights Counselor Kristi Bonilla, noting that is an objective of the district.

Bonilla learned about the expo as she researched area opportunities to learn about historically Black colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions.

“Oftentimes when there are career fairs, students see the traditional four-year colleges, but we are trying to change the narrative to post-secondary options for students by providing them insight into both non-college and college options beyond what they see,” she said.

Lots of Options

There are about 5,300 colleges and universities in the U.S., 93 in Michigan.

Among U.S. colleges and universities, 107 are designated historically Black colleges and universities. There is one HBCU in Michigan, Detroit’s Lewis College of Business, which reopened in March after a nine-year hiatus as the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design.

There also are Hispanic-serving institutions, which have an enrollment of full-time undergraduates that are at least 25% Hispanic students. There are 451 HSIs in the U.S., but none currently in Michigan. 

The Black College Expo featured more than 50 colleges and universities that focus on opportunities for minority students. The event was put on by the National College Resource Foundation.

“You can’t see it, you can’t be it,” said Jeff Wainwright, the district’s safety supervisor, who took the students to both the spring and fall expos. “A lot of times what they see is the football player or the basketball player, but not the African American doctor or lawyer.”

At events such as the Black College Expo, students see people like themselves in those careers and the door of opportunities widens, Wainwright said. “You have to know it is out there to want to be it.”

During the expo, application fees were waived, acceptance letters were handed out and announced, and scholarships were offered.

Several Godwin Heights students were accepted to colleges and received scholarships during the Black College Expo (courtesy)

An Eye-Opening Experience

Rashaad, who plans to pursue computer science or forensic science after graduation, learned about several colleges at the expo he was not familiar with. He said he spent his time exploring the type of campus experiences and programs that the institutions offered in his field of interest. 

“When I went in the spring, I was only a junior and so a lot of the schools really could not talk to me about much,” he said. “However, when I went in the fall, I found several schools that wanted to talk to me and I got three offers that day.”

Rashaad said he thinks students of all grades should attend events like the expo.

“It really made me be even more committed to getting good grades so that I am able to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there,” he said.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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