Local non-profit Embracing Exploration launches the ‘Black Excellence HBCU Tour’ offering area students an opportunity to experience and explore educational opportunities while celebrating their heritage and inspiring greatness. CBE’s Madelyn Ridgeway, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, joined these students on this incredible journey – be sure to check out the tour video for more details!

Embracing Exploration is a local non-profit launched in February 2022, with a mission of exposing youth and their families to experiences and opportunities beyond their current reality.

The Black Excellence HBCU Tour was the organization’s first project; its mission is to introduce Black Hawk County students to Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) so they can experience environments that make them proud of their heritage and inspire greatness. Providing this opportunity to tour HBCUs and historically significant sites, students are exposed to Black history, Black excellence, and educational possibilities.

While 80 percent of Black doctors, judges, lawyers, and teachers matriculate from HBCUs, none of those institutions are located within a five-hour radius for Iowa students to tour. This puts our students at a disadvantage when it comes to learning firsthand about all the collegiate options available to help them thrive. This gap in exposure is what led to the creation of the Black Excellence HBCU Tour.

Funded primarily by McElroy Trust, the first tour was held in October 2022 and included 22 area students of all backgrounds. The group visited five HBCUs in Tennessee & Alabama: Tennessee State University, Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, Fisk University, and Tuskegee University.

Tour participants also visited the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of both the Selma to Montgomery marches and Bloody Sunday. Additionally, students attended the Magic City Classic, an HBCU football game where the HBCU culture and traditions are on full display.

The goal of the Black Excellence HBCU Tour is for students to experience and see firsthand the possibilities in the excellence displayed at the HBCUs, and our hope is that they will not only become inspired to reach greatness for themselves, but also begin to think about what steps they can take to achieve their goals.

Of the students on the tour, over half now plan to attend an HBCU. Many students have shared stories of memories made and friendship groups of support that were formed as a result of this remarkable trip.

It is also our hope and goal that students will see the community support that made this trip possible and want to serve in their community in some capacity, so they too can do the same for others.

We would also like to thank CBE Companies and Marico Consulting for their additional sponsorship of the tour.