‘It feels good:’ Jacksonville high school graduate scores full-ride to HBCU

Now that the caps have been thrown and the tassels have been turned, high school graduation is in the rearview. Students are preparing for a new adventure: college.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are expecting to see a larger share of those students.

According to Forbes, many HBCUs said they noticed an increase in enrollment and applications this year.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole shares the story of a local high school graduate whose story helps shine a light on the bigger picture: Historically Black institutions helping students of color reach their full potential.

“It feels good. I know my hard work has paid off all four years,” said Maurice Bell.

Bell can now call himself alumnus of Robert E. Lee High School, but he’s most excited about his new status: a Tennessee University Tiger!

“I’ll be attending Tennessee State University in August,” Bell said proudly, with a smile.

As an HBCU alumna herself, Cole knows the excitement he is feeling. So she had to know what he was looking forward to the most about the experience.

Bell told her, “Honestly, just seeing a new site, new people, discover new things. Because I’ve never been outside of Jacksonville. So, I’m really looking forward to that! "

According to the American Council on Education, HBCUs award 17% of all bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students.

Bell told Cole he definitely plans to stay on top of his studies, but is also looking forward to, “Doing some things I never did here at least, like I want to do student council.”

HBCUs also play a pretty big role in helping getting more Black students into the workforce with bachelor’s degrees in STEM –that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Bell told Action News Jax his favorite subjects are math and science and he plans to major in public health.

“My dad, he’s in medical sales, so that really inspired it,” Bell explained.

Bell told Cole he originally planned to go to Florida State University, but he said a call he received from the 5000 Role Models site director, was a blessing in disguise.

“He had called me and asked me if I wanted to receive a full ride scholarship to Tennessee State University and I said, ‘hey, why not!?’

The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Program was created to help young, Black men reach the greatest potential. Bell told Cole that it played a key role in the next step on his journey.

Now Bell has this advice for the young male students preparing to go to high school this fall: “I strongly suggest that whatever school, whatever high school you’re at, I say be involved with the 5000, because without Mr. Hall calling me, I would not be going to Tennessee State, honestly.”

Bell told Cole meal plans, tuition, and housing are covered. He’s also received additional scholarships as well, so the only expense he will really have to pay out-of-pocket for is books.