Why did I start Black Girl On Campus?
Well, just like the BGOC mission - equipping and inspiring Black girls who are first generation college students - I was a first-generation college student. My parents didn't attend college, and while they went on to have successful careers, they knew they wanted me to attend college and, you know what, I knew I wanted to as well. But, since they hadn't, they didn't have the first idea on how to help me navigate the process. So, armed with research that I did on my own and a few visits with my high school guidance counselor, I was able to identify a dream school, apply to several schools and get into the college of my choice.
Along with my journey to college, some changes and adjustments had to be made. Was I happy about that? No, I absolutely was not, but my 17-year-old self also wasn't footing the bill. My dream school was Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. Don't ask me why I was so enamored with Penn State as I'd never visited the campus nor did I know anyone that had attended. What I did have was a brochure from somewhere during my research, and I was hooked. The vast campus (I was the person who wanted to go to a big school), the excitement over the sports programs (I don't know why because I wasn't an athlete), it was just something special about Penn State to me. But as this paragraph started, changes had to be made, and my parents said you cannot go there because of the cost. Huh? My dream school? Don't you see me cheering on the basketball team? Can't you see me walking across the campus to class? How much does it cost anyway? Fact is, I hadn't given one thought to how much Penn State or any school for that matter would cost. If I wanted to go there and had the grades, why couldn't it could be a choice, and I go there if accepted? Here's a fact, out of state tuition is almost always at least 50% higher (or more) than an in-state school (check out this article from George Washington University in Washington, DC that gives an overview of regional tuition costs). So, I retreated to figure out where else did I want to go. I had applied to State University of New York (SUNY) schools, but, I really wanted to go away! I wanted to be close enough I could come home easily/my parents could get to me if necessary, but far enough away that they couldn't just show up and knock on my door. I didn't realize that there were schools within the state that fit the bill and the happy medium ended up being my eventual alma mater, the University at Albany. Sight unseen I packed my parents car with linens, a mini-fridge, my clothes, accessories to make my room cute and we drove up I-87 to the state's capital. I don't necessarily recommend going to a school without visiting, but in these times with the internet and the ability to tour the campus virtually from the comfort of your home, you don't have to actually go to the school to get a feel although nothing beats actually walking the grounds.
Another obstacle I had to overcome during my journey toward college was access to my guidance counselor. Unfortunately, during my senior year, she was diagnosed with cancer, and her availability was spotty at best. I managed to get a couple of appointments with her, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty of application and financial aid form completion, doing essays, etc... I was pretty much on my own. Her counterpart had a roster of her own students to serve, and my school did not bring in a replacement. So between having parents who knew little about the college application process and an unavailable guidance counselor, I was left to my own devices. While I'm sure some sort of college prep program existed, I didn't know where to begin to look for it. All these years later, that's why I started BGOC because I firmly believe there is no need to have young black girls re-invent the wheel or figure it out themselves if they don't need to; and they don't because BGOC is here to help!
While UA wasn't my first choice, I ended up loving my time there! Yes, I had to get used to the cold and the mind-blowing snow (shout of to the underground tunnel system!), I made some great friends that I still have today, got a great education from a nationally respected university. While there I held a couple of jobs - including becoming a resident assistant (YAY free room & board), worked at the campus radio station & bookstore, volunteered with the African-American monthly printed publication and joined a sorority. But, most importantly, I was able to graduate within the requisite four years it takes to complete most bachelors degrees.
Now that I'm out of school, I realize while I succeeded in accomplishing my goal, I also know I missed a lot of opportunities I just wasn't aware of because I had little guidance and I don't want that to be the story for other young Black girls who have the same dream I did, to attend & graduate from college. That's why I started Black Girl on Campus, to engage and empower young black girls who would be the first in their family to attend college navigate the path of college prep and admissions as they endeavor to be competitive in tomorrow's world!