Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are known for helping students of color and opportunity youth access an affordable and quality higher education. Realizing that high SAT scores and GPAs aren’t necessarily indicators of student success in college, HBCUs instead focus on developing learners through personalized learning and support. Learn4Life and FLEX High serve at-risk students and share this approach to recover dropouts, and promote college access, readiness and enrollment opportunities for its students.

For National HBCU Week (Sept. 20-26), Lifelong Learning, a nonprofit educational services organization that supports Learn4Life and FLEX High, is celebrating a new partnership with the 1890 Universities Foundation, that provides students opportunities for increased exposure and acceptance to HBCUs, with support services to be successful in college. The 1890 Universities Foundation serves a network of nineteen universities in the United States designated through the Morrill Land Grand Act of 1890 as a historically black college or university.

FLEX High student Dreama Swanigan, 18, has always wanted to go to college. Although she had many struggles growing up – surviving cancer, the trauma of losing a sister and even being homeless for a time – she was eager to learn and determined to go to a university. At age 16, she enrolled at Learn4Life which offered a flexible schedule so she could take classes at a community college while earning her diploma. Dreama just graduated with honors and has been accepted to Central State University (CSU), an HBCU in Ohio. Because of COVID-19, Dreama will postpone going to CSU until the spring, and will instead attend Columbus State Community College for the Fall 2020 semester.

With this collaboration, students have access to 1890 Foundation college representatives at events such as College Fairs and FAFSA Nights (for federal student aid). Learn4Life and FLEX High help students with applications, student aid programs, dual enrollment and even provides transportation to exciting campus tours of their preferred college. Each year, four Learn4Life and FLEX High students will receive a $2500 scholarship to an 1890 Foundation member HBCU. Dreama is the first FLEX High student to be awarded the scholarship.

Learn4Life and FLEX High serve more Black students and graduate them at a higher rate than traditional public schools. Their model provides personalized learning and one-on-one instruction, which is highly effective for teens who need more attention and a program that fits their learning style. A flexible schedule is ideal for students who have fallen behind because they must deal with adult responsibilities, like caring for a baby or needing to work. For Dreama, she could adapt her high school schedule to include time for dual enrollment college classes. Although HBCUs were originally founded to provide higher education opportunities for African Americans, they have enrolled and graduated many students, regardless of their ethnicity, race or income level. Recent alumni of Learn4Life and FLEX High are enrolled in 10 HBCUs. For more information about the schools and their partnership with the 1890 Foundation, visit www.learn4life.org/hbcu-partnerships or www.flexhighohio.org/hbcu-partnerships.