Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Generation Next

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Generation Next

Article excerpt

A survey from the Southeast Policy Leaders Forum says African American college students are ready to take the leadership reigns, despite what most Baby Boomers think

WASHINGTON -- The popular perception is that young African Americans would rather wear their pants off their hips and bob their heads to rap beats than concern themselves with important issues like education, economic self-sufficiency, or the environment. However, a recent survey of students at 11 historically Black colleges and universities turns that perception on its head.

Improving education is considered the most important strategy for African Americans to improve their lives, according to 23 percent of students surveyed in the Southeast Policy Leaders Forum (SEPLF) survey, conducted October 1998 through February 1999. Economic self-sufficiency was the second most common response to this question about improving Black lives, garnering 19 percent of the responses. Not only did students show concern for the future of their communities, but they also proved that they are civic minded, with 79 percent of students saying they are registered to vote.

"If anyone is fearful that there will not be a next generation of leaders, they haven't met these students," says Darold Johnson, director of the forum. "The role of college faculty and administrators now is to help facilitate their sense of community activism."

While many current leaders in the Black community have bemoaned the loss of young African Americans to drugs, crime, and teen pregnancy, students at HBCUs have been proving them wrong by becoming active in their community in nontraditional ways. They are mentoring and tutoring young people, feeding the homeless, and cleaning up the environment in their communities.

Nearly 60 percent of the students surveyed at Bennett College, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, Fort Valley State University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T University, Southern University, and Spelman College say that they are active in volunteer efforts not sponsored by fraternities or sororities.

Almost 90 percent of students at North Carolina A&T are involved in some volunteer activity, continuing that institution's long history of civic and community activism. The legendary civil rights activists known as "The Greensboro Four," who in 1960 staged the first sit-in at a Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth's, were NCA&T students.

"The history of activism still thrives here," says Dr. Dorothy Harris, vice chancellor of student development at NCA&T. …

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