A little Charlotte school with a big heart celebrates Black History Month

HBCU grads pave the way for today’s students

A little Charlotte school with a big heart celebrates Black History Month

Some of the most successful relationships between families and teachers are built on more than the routine exchanges during a parent-teacher conference.

A little Charlotte school with a big heart is one of those schools breaking barriers and doing it to expose students to a world beyond their community.

The Hidden Valley Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization wanted to start a conversation, and what better way to do it than with a colorful shirt with bold words: “Support Black Colleges.”

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“Our students may aspire to go to some of these colleges, and anytime we can set the expectation to go further in education, that’s what we want to do,” said Daniel Gray, Hidden Valley’s principal. “We wanted to show that there’s a lot of different outlets and opportunities for our students, and, also lift up those HBCUs that traditionally don’t get the support that they should.”

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher learning established prior to 1964 with the education of Black Americans as their primary mission.

The school’s PTO purchased T-shirts for all 113 Hidden Valley staff members from Support Black Colleges, a clothing line with a mission to uplift, inspire and encourage others to support HBCUs.

“Black-owned businesses are some of the worst hit by COVID, so being able to support this business and purchase these shirts has been a great experience for us to help them but also helping us,” Gray said.

Hidden Valley Elementary has a large minority student population, and experts agree higher education needs to do more to create equity for students of color.

“For our students to see HBCUs displayed with their teachers and staff members at the school, now they can start to make that relationship that they can be a doctor or a lawyer,” said Kaz Muhammad, vice principal at Hidden Valley.

Over the last 20 years, students of color, and those from low-income families have comprised an increasing number of undergraduates at U.S. colleges and universities.

“It’s important our students recognize that there’s nothing wrong with the color of skin that they just happen to be born in. They never have to see themselves as having to be something other than what they are,” Muhammad said.

Today, there are more than 100 HBCUs, and 12 of those in are North Carolina, including Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. In addition to granting thousands of degrees each year, HBCUs have alumni such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Students being able to associate Black excellence with Black intelligence and that can be produced through HBCUs will automatically just to make them feel more comfortable,” Muhammad said.

During Black History Month, Gray said they are looking for more ways to celebrate, and one way is to show the expansive opportunities available to children who may not think those opportunities apply to them.

“We want to make sure that our students understand that many of the Black men and women who are now in leadership positions, who’ve made a difference in the world, for many the only opportunity for education they had was through an HBCU,” Gray said. “Now those same people have paved the way for our new generation.”

Higher education is not the root of all equity gaps, but it can be a vehicle to lessen those gaps, the educators said.

‘Whenever you can see yourself represented in those higher positions in the world, and you can aspire to the same position, is going to give you confidence, and they’re going to perform better in life,” Muhammad said.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.