Part one of a coming series going into the many schooling experiences offered here in the US. Mia Mitchell shares her path from two Historical Black Colleges/Universities
In December 2021, Jackson State, coached by hall of fame NFL cornerback, Deion Sanders, signed #2 high school prospect Travis Hunter to join the team for this upcoming fall. This is noteworthy because Jackson State is one of the largest HBCUs (Historically Black College and Universities) in the country. Hunter signing to Jackson St. over big-name sports schools like Alabama and LSU opens the door for other top recruits and transfer students to consider attending other HBCUs.
Outside of sports, HBCUs have been at the epicenter for black students to network and grow in their careers since The Institute for Colored Youths opened in Pennsylvania in 1837. Mia Mitchell had the privilege of attending two HBCUs, Hampton and Delaware State University, before starting her first year as an elementary school teacher this past fall.
For Mitchell, starting her HBCU experience at Hampton helped prepare her for graduating from Del State in 2020. With Hampton being one of the eight Black Ivy League Schools, Mitchell adapted to a challenging curriculum and a new life seven hours away from home.
“Hampton helped me grow as a person...being there, I was no longer the token black girl, so I knew I had to work harder,” Mitchell explained proudly, wearing her Del State cheerleading shirt. “It made me realize that there were other people just like me.”
While attending Hampton, she also had the chance to be a part of the school’s famous homecoming throughout October. As a cheerleader, Mitchell participated in the pregame parade and was also on the sideline during the homecoming game.
“Cheerleaders are treated just like other athletes…we have practice, strengthening and conditioning, study hall in the library, and traveling being paid for during away games,” Mitchell said.
“Every HBCU cheer group has a song where you have to dance to it wherever it’s played,” Mitchell said.
During that weekend, alumni cheerleaders and band members are allowed to perform with the current team, creating even more connections in the process.
“Homecoming is THE most anticipated season of the school year," says Mitchell.
She continues, "There’s fashion shows, step shows, parties, and many other events,” Mitchell explained as her eyes lit up. “We even have a coronation ceremony to pass the crown of ‘Mr. and Miss Hampton."
Although she enjoyed her time there, tuition prices and hours away from home ultimately led to her transferring to Delaware State in 2018. After transferring, Mitchell was able to find her niche through the school’s diverse community.
“Most don’t know, but Del State is the most diversified HBCU. There are different clubs and groups, even study abroad programs in China.” Mitchell explained.
“They have a good career service program that sets up job interviews.”
Being an education major, Mitchell got hands-on training in a classroom while attending Del State. Each semester, she would go to a different elementary school to help with student teaching. With the program having a 100% job rate after graduation, Mitchell likens it to helping her confirm that teaching was the right profession.
“The program helped me figure out ‘do you want to teach or not?’...I was lucky to have that experience because most universities don’t have programs like that.”
Besides that, Mitchell was also a member of woman-centered organizations like Elite, the highest non-Greek affiliated organization, focused on uplifting other women. She also was the secretary for ‘Big Sister, Little Sister,’ mentoring young black girls, and ‘Aspiring Educators’ for students in the education department.
Along with being a member of two honor societies, she took full advantage of her time at Del State. As a full-time student-athlete, balancing clubs and social life, Mitchell maintained a 4.0 GPA while at Del State.
Graduating as a cum laude, achieving higher than a 3.5 GPA, Mitchell wants to inspire the next generation of youth by providing an example of a model HBCU student.
“I worked my butt off in school...I went after everything I wanted, and it was great seeing like-minded individuals while at my HBCUs to share it with.”
Besides networking and job opportunities, the HBCU experience provides a comfortable experience for future black leaders to grow from. With its diverse culture of all races and backgrounds, HBCUs celebrate the growth of education for past and future generations. Even if attending an HBCU is out of the picture, visiting one is enough to showcase the culture that black folks have to offer.
Photo Credit to Mia Mitchell and Delaware State University