IRVINGTON, NJ — Several students and parents raved about the annual Experience the Legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities College Fair, held in the Irvington High School Auditorium on Saturday, Sept. 30. This was music to the ears of Eliese Richards, the Irvington native who founded the annual college fair.
Richards, who graduated Howard University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in fashion merchandising, acknowledged that things have turned out extremely well for her although she didn’t use the most scientific method to choose a college. She hopes others will be as lucky as she was, when it comes to choosing higher education.
“If I would have applied my resources better and would have had better information, granted, I would still probably have made that good decision of going to Howard, but I just would have been more well-prepared,” said Richards on Saturday, Sept. 30. “ I want the students from where I’m from to have that readiness and be college ready and be prepared, so let me come back and give them what I think is a gem, a jewel, a one-of-a-kind experience. So that’s what made me bring this event here to my hometown.
“ I just want the kids to understand that there are illustrious, prominent universities out here that are for us. They’re just as great as the Dukes, the Harvards. There’s notable alumni that come from those universities. HBCUs are just amazing places and it’s amazing experiences to help you learn yourself, learn your community and also learn the importance of giving back. That’s like the biggest thing. You have to give back, because you have to pave the path for the next generation to do just as great as you are.”
The praise from those who attended Richards’ event echoed her concerns and hopes.
“I supported my daughter and whatever she decides to do. Whatever college she decides to go to I support her 100 percent,” said Tawanna Cherry, who brought her daughter, Nakiyyah Cherry-Battle, 16, and some classmates from the West Caldwell Technical High School to the HBCU Fair on Saturday, Sept. 30. “It’s totally her decision and I support any decision she makes. I am looking forward to her getting out of the house, when she goes to college.”
Cherry-Battle and her friends, Bobby Richardson and Samirah Robinson-Good, reside in Newark and attend school in West Caldwell; they attended the HBCU fair to learn more about educational opportunities after high school.
“I think it was good and I liked it,” said Robinson-Good on Saturday, Sept. 30. “I liked to see all the speakers, recruiters and presenters that were talking about their colleges and how to get accepted in there, and all the things that we need to know, because we’re about to go to college soon. So these are things that we needed to know and they provided the information.”
Cherry-Battle agreed, but also voiced other reasons for wanting to attend her first choice school, Howard University.
“I was always interested in going to an HBCU, basically because I’m black and a historically black college would probably give me insight on my ancestors and what it’s like for black people,” she said at the event. “So coming here to see all of the different colleges, them telling us basically what they offer, it’s just like really exciting.”
The teens all agreed they were impressed by the Howard University representatives at the fair and were leaning toward applying to the school, sometimes referred to as “the Harvard of HBCUs.” Richards said that’s what she likes to hear.
In fact, Richards said the teens’ comments about the annual college fair are the main reason why she decided to organize the event in the first place.
“Aside from my love for HBCUs, Irvington is a great city and it’s a big community and we all need to support one another,” Richards said. “My thing is, when I was making college decisions, I felt like I didn’t really have much information. I had my best friend, Jackie, who basically told me she wanted to go to Howard, so I was like: ‘OK, I’m going to go to Howard,’”
Richards acknowledged that, while she didn’t use the most scientific method to choose a college, things turned out well for her. Others, however, might not be as lucky as she was, when it comes to choosing higher education.
Mayor Tony Vauss agreed with her sentiments.
“As one of the people who brought Pillar College to Irvington, I think education is very important to our community, especially when we bring our historically black colleges to the township of Irvington,” said Vauss, who recently earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pillar College in Newark. A former president of the Irvington Board of Education for nine years, Vauss recently enrolled in Metropolitan College of New York to pursue a master’s degree in public administration.
“It benefits students, not only from Irvington, but from all the surrounding areas,” he said of the recent college fair.