In high school, Andres Martin was told by his counselor that with his grade, he could not get admission into community college. The message shook him, and his confidence in attending college was thrown out of the window.
However, a tour of some HBCUs with his aunt changed his life and his perspective as he discovered that HBCUs operated an open-door policy to accept misguided students.
He got admitted into Grambling State University, one of America’s 105 HBCUs based in Louisiana. He then proceeded to Howard University, another HBCU located in Washington DC for his graduate school in business, he told Forbes.
And as a way of giving back to HBCUs for the life-changing experience and also to help sustain enrolment in HBCUs, he created HBCU Night, a non-profit organization to help students in America and across the globe know more about HBCUs and matriculate at HBCUs through large-scale, in-person events like college and resource fairs.
The idea to start HBCU Night in 2019 was inspired by his undergraduate experience at Grambling. The other source of motivation was the lack of exposure HBCUs had in the corporate setting. According to him, he felt HBCUs needed more seats at the table, in addition to creating their own seats.
Since forming HBCU Night, Martin has reached over 38,000 prospective HBCU students in over 1200 cities and has facilitated over 1,200 scholarships worth more than $52 million.
When COVID-19 struck, it did little to slow down Martin’s quest to create more opportunities for people to attend HBCUs. He pivoted towards organizing virtual recruiting fairs for HBCUs. The recruiting fair includes live chat, presentations, and a direct connection with an HBCU recruiter, according to Forbes.
“We’ve transformed the college fair experience — instead of walking from table to table, students are clicking from link to link, college to college!” he said.
Through the virtual college fairs, HBCUs are able to connect with students in the U.S. and across the world. The vision of Martin’s nonprofit is “to increase the HBCU Night attendance rate of prospective college students, rising HBCU graduates, and HBCU alumni by 20% annually, until capacities are reached,” the organization’s website says.
“In addition, increase the HBCU matriculation statistics, help navigate scholarship funds, continue to create employment pipeline initiatives, and create a lucrative space for all Black and Brown entrepreneurs,” it adds.
The road has not always been smooth sailing for the HBCU graduate. Despite offering over 1,000 scholarships for people at HBCUs, securing more grants and donations to expand offerings to HBCUs remains a challenge. Martin said his outfit is yet to receive any large financial funding for any of his initiatives.