Meet the Woman Behind HBCU Week Who is Determined to Change Lives

The HBCU Week Foundation is kicking off another week of promoting HBCU education to graduating high school seniors through their HBCU College Fair.

Created by two-time HBCU grad Ashley Christopher, the foundation serves by encouraging students to attend HBCUs and providing scholarships to lead grantees a paved road to success into post-graduate employment.

After the pandemic prevented a 2020 event, the 4th annual HBCU Week is taking place from September 26 – October 3 and will include a jam-packed week of events including a college fair, Battle of The Bands, the comedy show, hosted by celebrated comedian and HBCU Alum Wanda Sykes and an R&B Concert with Wale and Queen Naija as headliners.

Since its inception in 2017, HBCU Week’s signature College Fair event has resulted in more than 3,000 on-the-spot college acceptances and more than $18.5 million in scholarships awarded by HBCUs and corporate sponsors. For this year’s event, HBCU Week will give out $6.1 million in scholarship funds for students looking to attend an HBCU.

Making it four years and through an international pandemic, HBCU Week founder Ashley Christopher is amazed at what her vision turned into after starting out as just a local event.

(Image: HBCU Week)
(Image: HBCU Week)

“It started as a small local event that I had created for the mayor’s office in Wilmington (DE) in order to reach underserved communities in the local area, with the expectation of reaching 200 students,” Christopher told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “That first year we well exceeded our goal reaching over 700 students, and we’ve been growing every year since.”

Now four years since its inception, the college fair attracts hundreds. Students attending the fair, have the opportunity to not only meet with HBCU recruiters from across the country, but can earn on-the-spot acceptances and scholarships.

In fact, the fair has led to more than 3,000 on-the-spot college acceptances and more than $18.5 million in scholarships awarded by HBCUs and corporate partners.

With names like Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson all being HBCU alums, it’s clear that there’s something special that happens when a student chooses to obtain their higher learning from a historically Black college or university. It’s something Christopher notes as a “world-class” experience.

“They are not second rate to predominantly white institutions – and will allow students to achieve academic success,” Christopher said. “In addition to this, they offer Black students a sense of community, belonging, pride, history, and culture that is hard to find anywhere else.”

“You get to connect with students who look like you and share the same aspirations and goals. You get to connect with Black professors, who understand how to bring out the best in you to prepare you for a life outside of college,” she continued. “You get to live four years of your life not being in the minority for once, allowing you to truly find your voice and confidence as a Black person living in this world. The experience will give you friends and mentors for life, who will be backing your journey and celebrating your wins well beyond college.”

HBCU Battle of the Bands

As a two-time HBCU grad and Black woman business owner, Christopher credits her college education for setting her on a road to success.

“I attended two very different HBCUs, Howard and the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, but both left a huge imprint on me,” she said. “They developed my sense of confidence and pride as a Black woman and gave me the belief that whatever path I took beyond college that my voice was important and necessary.”

It’s because of Christopher’s HBCU experience why she was inspired to create HBCU Week. She credits Howard and Clarke for helping her identify her natural magic and know that she didn’t have to change to fit in.

“I want every Black person to have the experience I had,” she said. “I believe it’s important to reach back while you climb, and I want my success to benefit Black people coming behind me.”

(Image: HBCU Week)
(Image: HBCU Week)