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$100M donation to Spelman highlights importance of HBCUs after court decision

In 2014, every young girl who wished to attend Spelman College dreamed of receiving a powder blue envelope from the college in the mail. I received my acceptance letter on Christmas Eve. However, then came the more pressing issue: How will I pay for Spelman?

Thankfully, I, as well as so many others in my incoming freshman class, received scholarships to attend the college in Atlanta. The scholarships were made possible thanks to the generosity of people who recognized the powerful impact their philanthropy can have on the lives and goals of Spelman students.

That’s why I was so happy earlier this year to see my alma mater receive a $100 million donation – the largest single donation ever to a historically Black college or university (HBCU). The donation by Ronda Stryker, a businesswoman and philanthropist, and her husband, Greenleaf Trust Chairman William Johnston, will change the lives of students who dream of attending the women’s college, but may, like I did, wonder how they will pay for it.

Such a generous donation to an HBCU is especially important in the aftermath of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions, potentially shutting the door to higher education for many students of color. And with March designated as Women’s History Month, I am reminded of the opportunities Spelman provides for women from across the world.

Spelman College is like a young Black girl’s oasis, one that nurtures her into womanhood while providing her with the tools to succeed, whether she decides to be a doctor, foreign policy adviser, educator, playwright or human rights activist – all of which Spelman has produced. Unsurprisingly, for the past 17 consecutive years, the college has been ranked as the No.1 HBCU by U.S. News & World Report.

After coming into Spelman College as a 17-year-old who had never been on an airplane and had lived in an extremely rural town all her life, I learned many lessons from the college that prepared me to enter the professional world. I was educated in how I take up space in the world as a Black woman as well as how I help create opportunities for future young women. Thanks to Spelman, today I’m helping advance social justice and support children’s rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I’m grateful that Spelman will continue to provide educational opportunities, serving as a beacon to not only the Black community, but Atlanta, the nation and the world. With the Supreme Court’s successful attack on affirmative action, we must support the nation’s HBCUs now more than ever.

La’Candis Brown is a social media strategist for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Photo at top: Giles Hall on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta. (Credit: Lamont Baldwin)