GUEST POST: HOW TO PAY FOR AN HBCU EDUCATION FROM A MOM WHO’S DOING IT

By Tauleece Thomas, Esq.

Financing a college education is often one of the most daunting tasks that parents face on their parenting journey. There are so many questions to ask and answer as our children approach that ultimate decision of where they will matriculate after high school: Do we take out loans? Do we do the community college route? How can we find enough scholarship money to meet the need? Along with these very real questions of finance, many parents are also struggling with questions about which type of university will best suit their children. Should they send them to a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) or an HBCU (Historically Black College or University)? In our community, the love for HBCUs is sometimes jaded by the belief that HBCUs are “too expensive”. This misguided premise truly amazes me because HBCUs were founded to provide educational opportunities to those with the most limited resources. Have costs increased over the years? Absolutely! But so have the offerings and opportunities that HBCUs make available to our community. So, let’s explore some options, ideas and avenues for removing the “too expensive” moniker from any conversation about our beloved HBCUs.

You might be wondering, “Who the heck is this chick?” Well, I am a proud HBCU graduate (Howard University Class of 1992). I am the wife of a proud HBCU master’s program graduate (Prairie View A&M University Class of 2013). I am the mother of a proud HBCU graduate (Prairie View A&M University Class of 2016). And I am the mother of two proud, current, HBCU students (Prairie View A&M University Classes of 2018 and 2020). Yes, I am ALL ABOUT the HBCU journey! I value it! I love it! I live it!

Even before we became parents, my husband and I made TWO decisions:

        1 – Our children would attend HBCUs for their undergraduate education.

        2 – Our children would NOT take out loans for their undergraduate education.                                                    

To make these decisions feasible and attainable, we decided to adopt several mantras…philosophies…or family premises:

A’s = MONEY                 You can pay for school with your MIND              You can GET PAID to go to school

Our family hashtag: #wedontpayfordegreesaroundhere

Our family hashtag is one that we take VERY seriously. Being able to “pay for school with your mind” is a very real and attainable goal. It does take a bit more of a concerted effort on the part of parents and students, but it is completely feasible to not pay one red cent for your child to attend some of the best institutions of higher learning that this country has to offer. Excuse my colloquialism for a moment, but “ain’t NO education like an HBCU education”!

By now, you’re thinking, “Ok, sista…I’m with you on this. But, HOW do I do it?” I’m glad you asked that question…. here we go:

THE INTERNET IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

There is this WONDERFUL thing called the internet….and with a search of the right terms, parents and students will find a whole world of obscure and unknown scholarships that are out there and available. Since we homeschool, we simply turned “Scholarship Search” into a required course in the 11th and 12th grade year for our students. The vast array of scholarship search websites that are available is astounding. And while much of the information will likely be duplicative from one site to the next, there is always the possibility of finding hidden gems on one site that aren’t available on all sites. Make your internet search relevant to the schools and areas of study that your student is interested in pursuing. Also, access experienced counseling for scholarship search assistance. If your student is in public or private school, consider requiring him/her to establish a regular meeting time with the school guidance counselor as a way of staying informed and aware of scholarship opportunities and deadlines. This should be done at the beginning of the high school career, NOT in the last year.

KNOW THE TYPE OF SCHOLARSHIP THAT YOUR STUDENT IS MOST LIKELY TO BE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE

Understand the difference between merit-based scholarships, which are based on academic performance, and need based scholarships, which are based on financial need. For example, because of our family’s income level, my children have never qualified for many need-based scholarships. The couple of times that they did, it was because we had multiple students enrolled in college at one time, so our need was seen as greater for that reason. There are also scholarships that are specifically for students who plan to attend HBCUs. They are available via local alumni chapters, corporate alumni chapters and endowments set up by alumni that are administered by the university. Broaden your mind and thoughts about where scholarship money may be available and then tap those sources. Apply, apply, apply, apply, apply and apply some more! Consider creating a spreadsheet list with the scholarship name, application deadline, award amount, reference requirements, and notification date as a way of charting and tracking scholarship applications. Most applications are online now, but having this document is a great way to keep a personal eye on how your efforts are progressing.                        

NO SCHOLARSHIP AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL

A full ride academic scholarship does not always have to come from one funding source. If a student is able to aggregate scholarship awards and cover the entire cost of his or her education, then THAT is also considered being on full academic scholarship. Don’t shun those $250, $500 or $750 scholarships…they really do add up! The smaller dollar scholarships are sometimes the easiest to apply for and receive. A short essay, often no more than 500 words, is usually a standard requirement. So, if your student shuns writing, start working on improving his/her outlook on the power and purpose of being a good writer.

GET INVOLVED IN PRIVATE ACTIVITIES/GROUPS THAT OFFER SCHOLARSHIPS TO MEMBERS

Organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, Jack & Jill, Rotary Clubs, Masonic Lodges and other private membership entities regularly offer scholarships for students attending college who have participated in their organizations. These scholarships are often overlooked and go unclaimed as students don’t see the long-term value in joining and participating in these organizations. However, participation in these organizations often add value to a student’s resume, impart lifelong skills and create highly beneficial networking relationships that all can, and often do, lead to more scholarship opportunities. [Editor’s note: also consider athletic organizations and remember to apply for scholarships offered by local Black Greek-letter organizations (Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, etc.)]                         

ATTEND PRE-COLLEGE SUMMER PROGRAMS AT HBCUs

Most HBCUs have wonderful summer programs for students desiring to gain access and exposure to what that university has to offer. These summer opportunities often provide “insider information” about scholarships that students can apply for, when applications will be available and valuable mentoring experience with university students and staff. When a student attends and performs well in a summer program at an HBCU, he/she is seen as a valued future student for that institution. Some summer programs are free, and some have a cost. But no matter the cost, the value is in the fact that the student and his/her family have made a deliberate and substantial connection with that particular HBCU.                              

And finally… THE MOST IMPORTANT tip for funding an HBCU education is to change your mindset and improve your expectations! If you believe and expect to be able to afford an HBCU education for your student, you will make it happen!

My husband and I are now on our third student attending an HBCU, and we have yet to pay one penny for tuition, books, room and board or fees of any kind. Our oldest graduated in 2016….completely debt free. Our two current students have excess scholarship money EVERY semester such that they never have to ask us for money for anything. Heck, sometimes, I want to ask THEM to break me off a little piece of change! Our youngest two students are already primed and ready to find their niche and pay for school with their minds as well. 

Guest Blogger CiCi: Never Came

Never would I ever think that I would be the one telling the story from this side. 

But they told us never to say never anyways, so I guess that is where I first went wrong.

The second misstep happened when I slept with that dude without a condom.

This guy that I barely knew and probably didn’t have no business messing with in the first place had convinced me, through no major provoking, that I was safe with him.

And I believed it.

That was my bad. 

Many of us have done it though. 

You know, slipped up.

But this slip up was more like a punch to the throat. 

Sometimes, we get fortunate in these circumstances. 

We admit to our doctors a lapse in better judgment, anxiously succumb to a STI screening, pray extra hard and somehow all the results come back negative.

Whew!

We learn from our mistakes (hopefully) and then keep it moving.

But then sometimes, we test positive for something.

Most of the time, it’s something that can be treated and forgotten about.

I don’t know, something like chlamydia or trichomoniasis.

You know, something nobody ever has to know about. 

You take your treatment. It goes away. And you can act like it never happened. 

But then other times, that positive test result is heavy.

In my case, it was the HIV test that came back positive.

Heavy, heavy. 

Still a lesson. 

But definitely not one I thought I would ever have to learn.

NEVER did I ever think that it would be me.

Not that I thought I was special or nothing…

… but that was the thing – I wasn’t special at all.

I wasn’t doing anything different than anyone else around me.

Nothing that I thought would put me at risk of contracting HIV. 

I was just having sex.

Unprotected sex. 

Sex that rewarded me with a lifetime of medical treatment and regret. 

That was over a decade ago though.

Over ten years of me having to relive bad decisions I made so long ago. 

I’ve had to learn how to fight for Love of Self in a world that gives me so many reasons to be ashamed.

But I got it. 

And I’m holding on tight. 

Isn’t it beautiful how we still find a way to smile after all that we have gone through?

We all do. 

HIV doesn’t define me. 

Neither does the abuse. 

Or the depression. 

Rather, I see them as bruises that I wear boldly and proudly as they are pieces of what has molded me into the woman I am today. 

And for that, I am grateful. 

Of course, if I could go back and do it all over again, I would have done at least two things differently: 

I would have insisted that the guy wore a condom  

and refrained from sex with him until we had both been tested for HIV. 

But HIV was never gone catch me. 

Honey Child, 

When them folks tell you to, “Never say never” –

I would listen. 

Cus sometimes, never is closer than you think. 

+ Ci Ci + 

GUEST BLOG: OPEN LETTER TO SOCIETY

I’m sleepless I’m up thinking how society tells me my double D tits should have gotten me a lot further by 40 years old than they have. Now they say they’re starting to droop, my time is expiring. Society didn’t take my royal melanin into consideration, I look in my 20’s…

They say I’m beautiful with a great career. I’m considered successful by most but the oxymoron is I’m a single mother.

Society rings loud the failure of not having a man’s last name. Society says I as a woman must long to wear a big white dress and be subservient to a man. It’s my duty to serve a him…

Who is he? I’ve read all the fairy tales, even kissed a few frogs. Does he exist? I do not know, all I’ve met is disappointment and continuously scolded how, “Nobody is perfect, nobody will… be perfect I must accept someone’s flaws and settle down,” but all I hear is Settle.

I am not comfortable in settling, not even with myself. But I am comfortable with self. Society needs to listen when I say I have no interest to share my bed, to share my bathroom or my home. I’m nobody’s maid. I’m not doing a man’s laundry. I don’t enjoy doing my own. I’m not a maid, a cook or therapist of adult emotion. I’m an entertainer I control your emotions. 

I will Not serve or submit or Settle, as I am just not her….I’ve tried. I am not a man’s helpmate. Society needs to stop trying to correct me and tell me I just haven’t met him yet. Trying to convince me that the 20 year goose chase I was on while dating them was not successful ….the success was finding what I lost …..self. Energy transfer is real, I am more comfortable single. The most laid back person has bad days if you care without cautions, those can become your bad days. 4 years ago my goose chase stopped and I’ve never been happier. I’m single.

I never played wedding or wife. I never fantasized about the day or the life after…I always knew I wanted a daughter and I got that! 

I knew I would entertain and I got that.

Society says these Double Ds shoulda open doors, got me a raise, a house, a car, a new family but I would lose or hyphenate my name to carry the name of a forefather I don’t know but let go of my grandfather whom was hands down the best man I will ever know.
Society says I need to pay for a piece of paper, legal fees,  a wedding, a reception, then joint taxes. 

Society is money hungry looking for ways to fill their collection plates.

Society can kiss my ass. I think for myself as I live for myself as I now know how to Love myself. A man is merely a trinket all women don’t desire to hold on to the same trinkets till death do them part….
By Anonymous–


www.TeamCherieJ.com

GUEST BLOG: I WAS ALWAYS MY MOM’S KING, PROBLEM IS SHE’S MADE SURE SHE’S MY ONLY QUEEN!

Yes, I am a grown ass man and admit being a King and never a prince has caused me issues in my adult life. See my father left my mother with 4 children to take care of. By the grace of God, entertainment has my back so I was blessed with good jobs that support my family. Meaning my mother and siblings. I became my mother’s King instead of her son.
It was my house we lived in instead of hers. It was my choice what we ate for dinner…because of these allowances from my mother, she in return became my Queen.

At the age of 15, I met a beautiful girl who I fell in love with. She was perfect in every innocent way possible. This had nothing to do with dating or sex but in my mind I had long term plans for her. She was indeed going to be my wife one day when we were both ready. Only problem my mother despised that idea. Which at the time baffled me. This young lady was also in the entertainment business, she was beautiful inside and out and extremely hard working. How my mother could find fault or flaws within her made no sense. 
I always wanted to be my mother’s hero so I sat my feelings aside. I am now 45 years old and never pursued that young girl the way I wish I would have because of my mother. Truth be told I am 4 babies mommas in now, single again and never have been in love again. I have traveled, dated and done all I could to find that feeling I had as a teenager. Long story short that perfect, flawless, love of my life hates my mother because of her antics (understandably so my mother was very rude to her for no reason) and has moved on. She is now married with a family.


I admit to living a self destructive lifestyle. It started as a teenager as a way of rebellion. Which continued as an adult due to my issues with substance abuse. (I am working on it.) The relationship with my mother is strained. I was her cash cow which left me pretty penniless and struggling. I struggle to support my own children because my Queen’s children (my siblings) were well taken care of by me. Please don’t get it twisted, I’m thankful I was able to do for my family but because of it, I am NOT able to do the same for my children. Which gets me labeled as a deadbeat Dad by circumstance because the “Assumption” of all entertainers is We are Rich! 


I am writing this as a grown man to single mothers trying to raise boys. Please don’t make your son your King! Kings need examples, Queens. It’s okay to allow young men to be a Prince. They need time to learn and grow as a male before they are forced into manhood. No son should bare the responsibility of a grown Queen. I am not just blaming my mother, my father was a coward and dead wrong for allowing me to bare his responsibility. Cherie is my homegirl and I understand this is advice for my sistas so please don’t feel attacked. 
Had my Momma allowed me to date that young girl, my whole life could be different. We could have been an amazing force together. She is still beautiful inside and out and working as hard as ever. She’s remained successful without me. She is what I needed. Sure it may not have worked, but I would have learned that on my own if my mother would have allowed it. I needed to learn that on my own. Now I live with “what if’s” and NO healthy female relationships including the relationship with my mom! 
I see a cycle Queens, I am not the only King….


Anonymous–


www.TeamCherieJ.com

GUEST BLOGGER RENEE – MY TRANSGENDER CHILD

On June 14, 1996 I had my first child, he was the perfect boy you can ever meet. Well raised by me only. I knew he was special at the age of 5. When they say mothers know first, yes they do. I knew at that age he was different but kept it to myself. 


His father only donated his sperm, he hated me because when I was pregnant I wouldn’t get an abortion. I remember going to a clinic doing an ultrasound and the doctor telling me I’m at the weeks where we need to talk about the procedure that will be done in 2 days, and you have to take 2 pills. One pill will open the cervix and the other pill will push the fetus down enough so the doctor can perform the procedure. I looked at my cousin and said, “I’m out of here.”  From that day on forward he never took care of his son financially, never given him a talk, never took him to a ball game, or hugged him. 


At the age of 6, I lost a custody battle to the father. He took me through hell and back. At age 11, I regained full custody. From this incident he refused to see or be a part of his life. During my son’s high school years he became more comfortable with himself, his father really stopped acknowledging him because he was gay. When my son was sent off to his prom, his father never came to see him off or attend his graduation. For some reason, I think that hurt me more than my son. After high school my son began taking hormone pills. It was hard for me at first, but I still stood by him. A year after my son graduated, his brother by another woman graduated from high school. My son and I went to see him off to the prom and their father was there as well. I watched and overheard their father discuss how expensive the prom was that he paid for it.  At that moment I was so hurt knowing he helped the other mother but not me. My son for the past 14-16 years will still go over his father’s family house but the father will never speak or acknowledge him. 
As of today, his father still doesn’t  accept the fact his son is a transgender and now he won’t acknowledge his other son who happens to be gay.  I’m doing my best to make this long story short, my life is like a book with my son. It has been a journey. Some times I beat myself up, and I still don’t know why it hurts me so bad that my son’s father won’t accept my son. He’s really a great person and I love him unconditionally.