HBCU’s have contributed to American history by giving African Americans an opportunity for higher education. It provided us with the knowledge to pursue careers that did not require broken backs and calluses on our hands and knees. HBCU’s continue to provide a foundation for everyone based on the reality of African American life, not the media version of how we live. HBCU’s also provide people of color with a safe place to transition into an adult and determine who we are by exposing us to a broad spectrum of opportunities, lifestyles, and beliefs.The most frequent argument I’ve heard against HBCU’s is they are not reflective of ‘real’ life. Though only a high schooler, I believe ‘real’ life is what I lived yesterday and today, and can change in a moment. How well would a HBCU prepare me for Nicaraguan missionary work, or social work in Chicago, or D.C. politics? Just as well as any other college! Though I’m not in college, I am confident that we bring more to our future than four years of undergrad. Long-term personal and professional success is based on desire, talent, and belief in oneself. HBCU’s have provided generations of African Americans with foundational self-esteem and self-awareness that is the backbone of great African American leaders in all walks of life – comedian Wanda Sykes (Hampton), Black Enterprise publisher Earl Graves (MSU), president of the American Cancer Society Dr. LaSalle Laffall, Jr. (FAMU), and Oprah Winfrey (TSU) to name a few.My mom attended Howard University. She said at her high school, which was about 10% African American, teachers and administrators considered her ‘special.’ Her grades were average but she was articulate and involved. She went to Howard thinking everyone would look like her, make the same grades, and have the same political and world view that she had. She was wrong. She had to work hard to meet the educational standards set by her peers. She was exposed to African American Republicans, atheists, and people who had left families in third-world countries for education. She met the African American children of millionaires and scholarship recipients who had nothing but intelligence and determination. She said the experience was humbling. She realized for the first time that African Americans are just as diverse in their thoughts and experiences as others. Her Republican friends opened up her mind to different political perspectives, her friends who held different religious beliefs forced her to develop a deeper understanding of her own faith. She never appreciated education as much as she learned to through friendships with people whose families sacrificed to send them for an HBCU education. HBCU’s provide all students with a firm foundation of truth, history, exposure, support, and education upon which to build the rest of their lives. I have no doubt that I will leave Hampton having learned the lessons my mom wishes me to. In fact, for those of us who have the will, we’ll learn those lessons and much, much more.