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HBCU Graduations

If I could go back in time, I’d choose my HBCU, North Carolina A&T, all over again

When the coronavirus pandemic disrupted her freshman year, this Rhoden Fellow regained her footing after launching a business, earning a place on the cheerleading team

I’ll never forget the excitement I had at 3 a.m. on the day I left for college, ready for the five-hour drive from Maryland to North Carolina, or the sweat dripping from my father’s brow as we hauled my many belongings up two flights of stairs in my dorm. At the time, I knew I had made the best decision in choosing to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University but didn’t exactly know why. 

The area I grew up in, Prince George’s County, Maryland, is predominantly Black, so the only thing that was different for me was the size of the school and being away from home, the latter of which I looked forward to the most. I trusted myself to be an extrovert and was extremely excited to meet new people. However, I didn’t realize how much my historically Black college would transform who I was as a person over the next four years.

At the start of freshman year, I experienced heartbreak. After recovering from an ACL injury my senior year of high school, I thought I was 100% ready for college cheerleading tryouts. The feeling of walking up to the bulletin board to view the names of those who had made the team and not finding mine was the worst I’ve ever experienced. As a cheerleader for 10 years and someone who dedicated so much time to the sport, I kept asking myself, “What will I do now?” 

I had no choice but to figure it out. 

North Carolina A&T senior Alexis Black became a spring 2023 initiate into the Alpha Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Jamar Plunkett

I’m so glad to have met friends whom I cried, studied and partied with – and continue to do so to this day. I also decided to step outside my comfort zone and get involved with different organizations, including the Metro Aggies (students from Washington, Maryland and Virginia) and the National Association of Black Journalists.

Even though I absolutely despise working out, I also committed to going to the campus gym every week, as well as taking my friends with me to the nearest tumbling gym to work on my skills.

Just as everything seemed to be going smoothly, I received an email about the coronavirus pandemic that said everyone on campus had to pack their belongings and go home. I just couldn’t believe my freshman year was ending so soon.

While at home, I started my own eyelash extension business, Lash’d Out and Company, and finally earned a place on the cheerleading team after virtual tryouts were held. I also began to think about my career path. What exactly was my purpose in being a journalism and mass communications student?

In my opinion, the period of 100% virtual classes was the worst thing that could happen to a college student. I was unable to connect with my professors and at one point wasn’t focusing on my classes. Thank God being fully virtual lasted only a year.

Once the 2021-2022 school year began, we transitioned to more in-person classes, and I started to regain that sense of normalcy I originally felt during my freshman year. It also was exciting to be back cheering on the sideline, doing something I considered my second home.

In my junior year, I received several job rejection letters; I felt like my work wasn’t as good as others but didn’t give up. I wrote more articles for the school newspaper, The A&T Register, and became more hands-on as a journalism student. I was then able to obtain this fellowship with Andscape and was excited someone had finally taken a chance on me.

As a Rhoden Fellow, I have had the opportunity to speak with a tremendous amount of professionals, gain mentors, report from the annual Cricket Celebration Bowl, attend the men’s ACC tournament and add podcast editing skills to my résumé.

North Carolina A&T senior Alexis Black (center) won the title of Miss 1911 during a pageant for the Alpha Nu chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

Vanessa Black

Throughout my senior year, everything seemed to fall more into place. My eyelash extension business was where I wanted it to be, thanks to the many students from my school who supported me. I embraced my final year of cheerleading and also participated in a pageant for the Alpha Nu chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, winning the title of Miss 1911, something I never saw myself doing. I also became a spring 2023 initiate into the Alpha Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Ultimately, I am extremely satisfied with my accomplishments and the mark I will leave at North Carolina A&T. This fall, I will attend George Washington University to pursue a master’s degree in sports management. 

The secret to why I don’t stop? I continue to live by Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Through all the rejection letters and times where I wanted to give up, my biggest takeaway was the importance of believing in myself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will?

North Carolina A&T was the best decision I ever made because it granted me the opportunity to gain family, mentors and a better sense of how I want to live my life. I know for a fact I’d choose my HBCU over and over again.

Alexis Black is a senior multimedia journalism student from Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is a contributor for The A&T Register, a student reporter for Aggie News and a student-athlete with N.C. A&T’s cheerleading program.