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HBCU Reps Visit Portland’s High Schools

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HBCU Reps Visit Portland’s High Schools
Posted on 09/17/2019
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Representatives from Morgan State University and Clark Atlanta University, two of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), visited Portland’s public high schools on Sept. 9 and 10 and spoke to students and school and district staff about what HBCUs have to offer.

The visits came during 2019 National HBCU Week and marked the first time that HBCU officials have come to the Portland Public Schools.

Morgan State University is a public historically black research university in Baltimore, Maryland, and is the largest of that state’s HBCUs. Clark Atlanta University is a private, historically black university in Atlanta, Georgia.

Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana said the district welcomed the visits by  Douglas Gwynn, Morgan State’s director the office of residence life and housing, and Cafabian Heard, marketing & creative services specialist at Clark Atlanta.

“As Maine’s largest and most diverse school district, we were delighted to welcome Dr. Gwynn and Cafabian Heard to Portland as a first step in increasing the visibility and viability of HBCUs for our students.,” Botana said. “It was an opportunity for students and staff, such as our guidance counselors, to learn about historically black colleges and universities and all that they have to offer our students.”

The visitors spoke to guidance counselors, students, parent and community specialists, and youth development staff at Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools about admissions and scholarship opportunities at HBCUs.

In his presentation, Gwynn told students about a message that Zack Hubert, a former slave freed by emancipation, passed on to his  children, who went on to attend college: “Get your education. It’s the one thing they can’t take away from you.”

Last spring, Gwynn hosted a group of Portland High students who visited the Washington, DC, area as part of a tour of HBCUs sponsored by the Portland Mentoring Alliance. On Sept. 9, those PHS students spoke to other students about what they had learned during that tour.

Gwynn and Heard also attended a Sept. 10 event at the University of Southern Maine, at which USM announced the creation of a new teaching fellowship honoring Gerald Talbot of Portland, Maine’s first African-American legislator and a civil rights leader. The fellowship is dedicated to examining race in Maine.

HBCU is a distinction given to institutions of higher education in the United States that were created before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the mission of educating slaves and former slaves, black Americans, Gwynn said in his presentation.

Currently, there are 107 HBCUs, both public and private. There are no HBCUs in Maine or New England.

Today, more than 20 percent of students at HBCUs are not black. However, HBCUs remain a vital component of American higher education for students of color, creating a supportive community for them. Gwynn cited statistics showing that HBUC graduates constitute 50 percent of all black professionals, including public school teachers, 65 percent of black physicians and 50 percent of black engineers.
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