08/03/2011 09:47 am ET Updated Oct 03, 2011

Let's Appreciate The Contributions of HBCUs

It is a shame that some fail to appreciate the historically black college and its lasting value to the nation and to the world. How can one deny such a precious yet effective thing? HBCUs produce America's brightest professionals in a number of fields. I have no doubt that they will continue to nurture the cream of our nation's crop. As a rising senior at Hampton University in southeastern Virginia, I wouldn't trade my experiences here for the world.

Then there are those who feel otherwise. In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Jason L. Riley asserted that although black colleges were "once an essential response to racism, they are now academically inferior." After reading his thoughts I was outraged, yet motivated to prove him wrong. There's no institution, predominantly white or otherwise, that can match the lessons I've learned at my historically black university.

I write this without bias. Even before being appointed the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, I made it my duty to observe and record the happenings at Hampton. I was consumed by the ubiquitous feeling of achievement and self-importance that spread across campus like a wave the moment President Obama won the 2008 election.

I felt the frustration of academic challenge, like that students at any other institution feel when enrolled in a rigorous class like Physics or Organic Chemistry, only I felt along with it the encouragement of understanding professors that cared and invested so much in my success. I admire so many of them. Some of my professors served in the Civil Rights Movement; I aspire to be as life-changing as they are.

Awestruck and proud, I attended the opening of the Hampton University Proton Center, the world's largest free-standing cancer treatment center and watched as President Obama himself spoke words of encouragement to graduating seniors. So my experiences illustrate nothing less than high achievement and pride at a dynamic, progressive and fine institution. Surely other students, alumni, and faculty of other HBCUS will agree. Naysayers may complain and perpetuate statistics that warp the opinions of others, however, allow me to provide a realistic testimony.

I made the decision to attend an HBCU on my own will during my senior year in high school. Higher education and excellence was always expected from me. I have always been a high achiever. A minority in a predominantly white school system, I excelled in the public schools of Maryland's Montgomery County, the same school system that boasts the nation's highest graduation rate and top academic achievement scores. I was one of those top performers. My education at a magnet high school was intense and my grades were always outstanding.

Because of that, surely I could have been admitted to almost any college and excelled. But I didn't want to attend just "any college," I wanted to go to an HBCU. Some may ask why I turned down scholarships to University of Maryland, Princeton and elsewhere. I did so because I wanted an experience that was unique and conductive to my growth in this world. I wanted to grow under the guidance of aware and culturally sensitive instructors. I wanted to learn in an environment of people with experiences similar to mine. At the end of my tenure, I can confidently say that I will have found all of the above at Hampton University.

So how dare Riley and others predict that black colleges will remain "fourth-rate institutions at the tail end of the academic procession" when HBCUs are setting the standard of excellence? My success and growth at Hampton is evidence of that high standard.

So instead of publicly condemning HBCUs, let's appreciate their value as well as their endless contributions to the world. Attending a historically black college or university was one of the greatest decisions I've ever made.