DIAMOND BAR, CA-Jabez3 Enterprises, Inc. President Theresa Price did not attend a historically black college or university. Price said she hadn’t even heard of a black college until she was attending school as a student at Long Beach State. But since 2000, when the inception of the Black College Expo first came to fruition with an estimated 35,000 people in attendance, Price has seen to it that students in Los Angeles and around the country are aware of these institutions of higher learning.
“I didn’t want another kid to say they didn’t know anything about black colleges,” Price said in an in-depth interview at her Diamond Bar office. “It was a way to do (some) niche marketing. But instead of just doing a college fair, let’s make it exciting. Let’s make it an exciting fair where it’s educational, but those kids, you’d think they were going to a concert. That’s how the whole creation came.”
Price’s inherited passion to help others has evolved from going on the side of promoting musical acts to radio and marketing to assisting high school students gain upward mobility through education. The Black College Expo, in its 13th year of existence, is the one sweet note that Price has found a harmonic medley to that can meet the educational needs of young people in and around the Los Angeles area looking to get inside the gates of a college education.
This Saturday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), along with other two and four-year schools, will be putting their game face in an effort to try to attract students to attend to their places of learning. Over the years, the Black College Expo has been a successful recruiting tool for HBCUs.
According to Price, 5,000 students were accepted into a college or university at last year’s Black College Expo. Price is expecting as many students to be accepted this year as well. More than 375,000 students have gone on to college through the magnet that the Black College Expo has become. The first year of the Black College Expo was a great indicator to Price that she was unto something really big.
“We planned for 5,000 (people),” Price said. “We didn’t know what to expect. We did it in a real small hall, and that place that day, people were in line for two and a half hours to get into the expo. It was crazy. They sent out the riot-gear police thinking it was going to be a problem. There were no problems. People were just standing in line, waiting to get in. So it created this huge thing. That is kind of how it got started.”
There’s plenty good reasons why Price has developed into a master at selling attending HBCUs to local students. Many students-locally and nationally-are limited in their knowledge about historically black colleges and universities and educational opportunities they provide. They are also unaware of the wealth of power their alumni wield. According to The Network Journal, 50 percent of all African American lawyers and 80 percent of judges attended and graduated from a black college or university. The list goes on.
Forty percent of engineers, 40 percent of African Americans sitting in congress, and just over 12 percent of corporate CEOs, come from a black college. Of course, some of the most notable African Americans in U.S.history come from an HBCU. That list would include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Morehouse), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Lincoln), Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State) and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (Howard University).
Price has taken a bare-bone idea and has turned it into a thriving, educational resource operation. The Black College Expo, which visits five cities annually, including Ontario, Atlanta and Oakland, has evolved into a program under the umbrella of the National College Resources Foundation (NCRF). Before the Black College Expo came on the scene, enrollment of California students at HBCUs, were pretty dismal, the numbers hovering around three percent.
That statistic has dramatically gone up with some black colleges reporting a 20 to 50 percent jump, numbers reported by the Black College Expo.
It is pretty easy to see why the Black College Expo has become a go-to event for high school students and their parents. This year’s expo features symposiums and seminars on “How to Get Scholarships for College,” “Why Attend an HBCU,” and “411 for the Student-Athlete.” There are band auditions. Band scholarship money is available.
There’s a step show. Students in the 11th and 12th grades, as well as potential junior college transfers, can walk up to a potential recruiter and get accepted into a college if they bring a copy of their transcripts and SAT or ACT scores.
Through the success of the Black College Expo, Price has taken a need for young people in urban neighborhoods and transformed a dream of a better life into a searing reality. But none of this would be possible if Price didn’t have it inside of her heart and soul to do it.
“I’m just one of those (people) I really get involved in what I do,” Price said. “I have to really feel. Even in my marketing job, I have to really feel your product. I have to really understand it, know it and want to do it. Otherwise, it is just not real…These colleges can be our saving grace. At the end of the day, we need to do what we can to keep HBCUs going.”