Renton high schoolers build strong bonds while visiting HBCUs

The district’s second annual trip allowed Black sophomores and juniors from different Renton high schools to expand their collegiate horizons and make some new friends along the way.

For the second year in a row, select students from the Renton School District — across four high schools — were given the opportunity to tour various Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)

Twenty-eight students — four from Talley High School and eight from from Renton High School, Hazen High School and Lindbergh High School traveled to Georgia and Florida during mid-winter break from Feb. 17 to Feb. 24.

The 2023 HBCU trip was fully funded by the school district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. This year, the trip was made possible through the CTE program, private donors and sponsors, which included Renton Education Association, Washington Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), FIGG Mentoring, Marlene Anderson, Karen Keiser, Kathie Thornton, Claudia Peterson, Ellen Willis and Jana Robbins.

Students toured six different HBCU campuses and Georgia State University, which is not an HBCU. Like last year, students visited the all-male Morehouse College, the all-female Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University. This year, Fort Valley State University, Albany State University and Florida A&M University were added to the trip.

When speaking to various students across the district who were selected for the trip, many said that Morehouse was their favorite.

“It has everything I need like for my career goals, I want to be an aerospace engineer,” said Renton High School junior Jelani Adams. “The culture is good, the food is good, too and it’s in a good area. So, it’s all good vibes.”

Hazen High School junior Tarrel Foxx had similar thoughts, saying that Morehouse was at the top of his list.

“They really talked a lot about the history and, like, the culture. And that played a big part,” he said. “You want to have a good community at the school you go to, so you can feel as comfortable as possible. And then they said that they have a 14-1 teacher to student ratio, and I prefer to work in smaller classrooms.”

Many of the students said that the trip put HBCUs on their radar and that they will definitely apply for some of the schools that they had the chance to tour.

“Just walking around the campuses and seeing people, it kind of gave you something to look up to,” said Alexis Lane, a junior at Hazen who enjoyed Spelman. “Especially here, we have Black people, but not a lot of Black people, and just being around Black people who are meeting their goals and are doing the things that they want to do is really inspiring to see.”

Students also talked about the bonds they had made with other students and with their leads and mentors.

“A big highlight was getting to meet different people in the Renton area that we have never like met before, that was a good part of the trip,” said Christasia Watkins, a junior at Talley High School.

When speaking to The Renton Reporter, students talked about how having a lot of downtime on buses and in hotels helped form these bonds, and how a few would love to already plan an HBCU trip reunion.

“All of us were sitting down in the middle of this hotel hallway, just yapping about whatever you really wanted to, with people that we’ve never met before. And it just kind of felt like we were all friends,” said Lane. “I think we would all appreciate being in the same area, and being able to craft that connection again. I still text some of them, which is like really cool to me and I really hope those are gonna be my friends for a long time.”

As far as advice for Renton students who want to sign up for future HBCU trips, students talked about taking the personal statement and essay seriously and how the trip is such a rare chance.

“Don’t lose your opportunity to not go on it and take it serious. It’s a one-time opportunity,” said Lindbergh High School junior Shaheed Mohammed.