Right: Orlando "Pepper" Livas, II was one of the young men who has attended the LBCT for two years in a row. By Deborah M. Walker
Open to all high school students the 23rd annual Lansing Black College Tour (LBCT) offers an alternative to local students looking to obtain a quality education while learning about black history and culture. The tour introduces participants to college life and offers a chance to network and gain opportunities that will last a lifetime.
Fred R. Porter, organizer of the LBCT, says it is important for today’s college bound students to see what their ancestors built at a time when blacks were not allowed to attend traditional white universities.
“It’s important for our youngsters to know what our ancestors created,” argues Porter. “Even though we do have the Black History Month most of the youngsters don’t know anything about the history. They learn something about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he said, where he lived, where he went to school and that’s about it. Black History Month really doesn’t teach our kids about black history. There are certain things that they tell them, but they don’t tell them things that are in my opinion very important. Like they don’t know what our ancestors did when they were slaves or when they became free.”
Not only does the LBCT offer students a chance to exposed to a rich educational past, students who attend the tour also have a chance to apply for admission to the institutions visited at no cost says Porter.
“For the youngsters what’s important is not only do they get to see what their ancestors created but they first of all get to apply to these schools for free. Usually to apply to these schools it’s a minimum of 50 dollars, but when you go on the tour it’s always free,” said Porter.
The LBCT is not only limited to high school students. For the last couple of years, the tour has welcomed students from Lansing Community College (LCC) as well. This is a great opportunity because it gives students who might otherwise not be able to go a chance to attend states Porter.
“Some of those students didn’t have an opportunity probably to go when they were in high school and LCC has a relationship with a lot of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and those students because they were really interested after LCC going to maybe one of those schools and LCC pays for them,” said Porter.
An added bonus for LCC students who attend the LBCT is that LCC pays for the trip says Porter. Last year they paid for 6 students to attend the tour informed Porter. LCC students looking to attend the tour can contact Tonjala Eaton, Academic Advisor and Coordinator for the Historical Black College Transfer Program at LCC, informed Porter.
Students from LCC looking to go on the LBCT must participate in the HBCU club activities and attend their meetings. Eaton says that the meetings are a great way to network and build resources. At the meetings, students can get help with tutoring services, receive support services, referrals and much more.
“This is just one of the many opportunities that we have for students to realize their full academic potential. For some of our students historically black colleges and universities offer a good segway in their education from the community college to the HBCU campus,” said Eaton.
There is a rich history behind HBCU’s to share says Porter. The schools were built by churches and individuals who knew how important education was for black people. According to Porter, the HBCU’s creators meant for blacks to have a place to study where they were accepted and appreciated for their contribution to the world.
Porter says black students today are increasingly being shut out of predominately white schools. Unlike other colleges and universities, black students are welcome at historical black colleges. According to Porter, the number of black students at traditional schools will only decline if recruitment practices do not change.
“The number of African Americans going to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University are decreasing because of Prop 2,” said Porter. (Proposition 2 in Michigan bans affirmative action in public college admissions).
It is important for students who plan on attending to sign up early warned Porter. There are only 40 seats available on the tour. In 2013, 38 students attended the LBCT. This year is expected to meet or surpass last year’s attendance says Porter.
Porter states he would like to see more boys attend the tour. Porter says that usually there are more young women on the tour. This year he hopes that more young men will sign up.
Orlando "Pepper" Livas, II was one of the young men who has attended the LBCT for two years in a row. In 2012 he went to Atlanta University, Morehouse University, Spellman, Fort Valley State, Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman, Edward-Waters, Savannah State University. In 2013, He attended Central State University, Wilberforce University, Kentucky, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, Alabama A&M, Alabama State University, Tuskegee University, and Oakwood University. He plans to attend college at Florida A&M located in Tallahassee, FL in 2015. He will be graduating in 2015 and will also be attending the 2014 tour in the fall.
Livas' determining factor for what college he wanted to attend was when he visited the campus. He stated, "I heard of the many wonderful opportunities students received from just attending Florida A&M’s engineering program. Another factor was when I looked up the top HBCU engineering schools; Florida A&M was at the top of the list."
Livas stated that there were many things that he will not forget about LBCT experiences.
He said, "The most memorable moments from the trip was Mr. Porter would quiz us on historical questions along the way and we would receive cash rewards for answering the questions right. My second memorable moment was experiencing all of the different college campus life and attending the biggest HBCU football game Alabama A&M vs. Alabama University while on the tour. This football game featured the 'Notorious Battle of the Bands'. My third and final memorable moment was witnessing a senior from Everett High School receive several scholarship opportunities right on the spot at each school she applied for while on the trip. That is one of the biggest advantages to attending the tour."
Although it is the LBCT, anyone can attend. According to Porter, students of all ethnic backgrounds are welcomed and are encouraged to go. Occasionally white and Latino students do attend the tour.
“In most of the HBCU’s now I say minimum 10 percent of the students are white. We don’t limit it to any one race or any one ethnicity,” states Porter.
A day on the LBCT can get busy says Porter. Each school will go over the requirements for admission; grades, paperwork etc., informed Porter. This is a perfect opportunity for students to showcase their talents. According to Porter, students with good grades can get scholarships on the spot.
“Last year one of the young ladies who went on the tour with us got a scholarship. We visited 9 schools. She applied to 6 schools and was accepted at every school. One of the schools she was accepted to gave her what was called a presidential scholarship. That means they pay for everything. Not only did they pay for everything they offered her a stipend of $600.00 a term for spending money,” said Porter.
That is not unusual claims Porter. Many times students attend the LBCT to get academic scholarships but they are not the only scholarships available. Athletes also attend the tour for a shot at a free ride states Porter.
Porter says he enjoys passing along tapes for high school athletes. Several students in the past have received scholarships because of this type of networking. Porter says the possibilities for students who attend the tour are endless. He also is excited to know they are making a difference in the lives of young people.
“The most exciting thing for me as a chaperone is to see for example someone who we’ve taken on the tour maybe 5 or 6 years ago end up being a professor at one of the schools that we visit,” said Porter.
Porter says he enjoys meeting students who have gone on the LBCT in the past. According to Porter students are notified of their arrival and look forward to greeting them. Last year 3 students came out to greet the students and chaperones on the tour Porter recalled.
Safety is always a top priority on the trip. According to Porter there are no mere volunteers on the trip. All of the chaperones have been with the LBCT at least 10 of its 23 years.
Dean Transportation usually provides the services. Departure for the trip is simple. Usually the tour meets at one of the high schools says Porter. For the past couple of years, the tour has departed from Everett High School and the students are returned to the same location they departed from.
The LBCT bus leaves around 7 p.m so the students can arrive at their first school by breakfast time. After breakfast it is off to tour the school and then the group moves on to the next destination explains Porter.
Porter says not to worry about the cost of the trip because there are ways to make the trip affordable. He states there are many avenues to pursue when gathering money for the tour. It is money from local sponsors that make the tour possible.
“One of the things we try and do for individuals who think it might be out of their reach is we give them tips on how to try and get help,” said Porter.
He is thankful for local sponsors although he would like to receive more donations from major corporations. Porter says it is difficult for the Black college Tour to receive money from major corporations. According to Porter these companies pay for other trips such as funding money for students to go to China. Porter says he would like to see them participate more in the LBCT.
“We’ve had difficulties getting donations from organizations I think should be anxious to help youngsters who are interested in going to college,” said Porter.
One way to make up for this is to have students find help from other sources informed Porter. Friends and family make great sponsors. Students must be proactive in obtaining money for the tour. He says that being vocal and taking the initiative will help raise the money.
“Nobody is going to help you on the tour with money unless you ask. Why can’t you ask your grandfather for example to help you or an uncle or even your pastor? You never know,” added Porter.
Another way to raise the money is through individual sponsors and private donors say Porter. Individual and private sponsors are a great way to fundraise, although they reserve the right to choose who they will give the money to informed Porter. Last year several students tours were paid for by gracious sponsors.
Usually the young women dominate the LBCT claims Porter. He also states he would like to see more young men attend the tour and hopes this year will be different.
According to Porter, 9 schools will be visited this year. Last year the tour visited 10 schools: Wilberforce University, Central State University, Kentucky State University, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Alabama A&M, Oakwood College, Tuskegee University and Alabama State University. Porter said there are 7 different tour routes they can take. There are plenty more HBCU's to visit but they are too far away.
More information about the LBCT will be released in the fall. If you have any questions, please contact Fred Porter at 517-394-0699.
This was printed in the June 1, 2014 - June 14, 2014 edition