Alyssa Paddock just finished her sophomore year at Howard University.
Unlike most students at Howard, Paddock isn’t black, which may come as a shocker to some, but she’s definitely not the first white person to attend Howard or any other HBCU. In a recent op-ed post for The RootDC, Paddock explains her reason for picking Howard, which included a phone call from the Lacrosse coach and an athletic scholarship opportunity.
So how did I get here? When I started my college search in 2010 I looked for schools located in cities I thought would be exciting places to live. I also wanted schools with decent lacrosse teams and that would offer me scholarships to play for them. I narrowed my search to Marymount University in Alexandria, Va., Philadelphia University and American University here in DC.
My older sister Sally gave me advice that ultimately helped me decide my college future. She said I should apply to Columbia University and Howard University; Columbia as a “stretch school” that would likely be hard, or a stretch, for me to get into, and Howard as a way to step out of my comfort zone and experience being a minority.
She thought Howard would teach me important life lessons that I could never get at a predominantly white institution. Sally had spent time as the only non-Israeli and non-Jewish person in the Israeli Army during a year in Israel.
The following year she taught school at a Native American reservation in Northwestern Canada where she was the only white person on the reservation. (We are dual citizens of Canada. I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba but raised in Connecticut.) I’d always trusted and valued her opinions but I’d never considered attending either of the schools she suggested. I was more focused on applying to schools that where interested in recruiting me to play lacrosse.
In December 2010 I decided on Marymount University and committed to its lacrosse team. In January 2011 I got an unexpected call from the coach of Howard’s lacrosse team. She had seen me play the previous spring at a statewide lacrosse tournament for Connecticut high school juniorsand invited me to come down for a visit. She was interested in recruiting me to play for Howard.
Despite my commitment to play for another school, everything seemed to be pointing me toward Howard. My sisters’ advice and my college goals appeared to coincide. Howard offered me an athletic scholarship that covered a portion of the tuition and an academic scholarship that paid for the rest. It was more money than Marymount had offered me. Howard’s lacrosse team was also better than Marymount’s. It was a no brainer; I accepted the offer.
Friends and family immediately questioned my decision. Some dismissed it as a joke. Black friends and acquaintances laughed at the prospect of my attending a mostly all black college. White friends and acquaintances were confused about why I would want to go. My parents, who’d always encouraged me to make my own decisions, worried about the prospect of my being a member of a minority group for four years and questioned whether I could handle it.
I knew attending a black college would be different and I prepared myself for the challenge. It was not until I visited the campus on “accepted students’ day” that I learned what HBCU stood for. I had no idea that Howard was an officially designated “Historically Black College or University” and that there were 106 other HBCUs around the country.
I’ve never had an opinion on non-black students attending an HBCU. I guess I can say the reason I attended a predominantly white institution (Rutgers University) is pretty much the same reason she chose Howard. It was practically a free ride, where as the countless HBCUs I applied to, offered next to nothing in scholarship money. But what’s disheartening is this line of her piece, “ I had no idea that Howard was an officially designated “Historically Black College or University” and that there were 106 other HBCUs around the country.” At least know the history of the institution before you take the money. I at least knew Rutgers was named after the American Revolutionary War hero Colonel Henry Rutgers.
What do you think of white students attending HBCUs?