Dre Martin fights for HBCU visibility and resources through non-profit HBCU Night
The Howard University alumnus says his organization is "all about giving access"
For any prospective college student, choosing the right school to continue your academic career can be an exhilarating yet stressful process. It goes beyond finding a college or university that has your major. It’s more so finding a secondary home — a place where you can harvest long lasting relationships far beyond graduation.
Howard University alumnus Dre Martin strives to make the process as smooth as possible for rising seniors in Black and brown communities, particularly those who want to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Martin’s non-profit, HBCU Night Inc., launched in 2015 with the goal to provide admissions resources, HBCU enrollment opportunities, scholarships, career resources for industry mavens and entrepreneurs, and entertainment for attendees.
In an interview with theGrio, the Connecticut native said he originally started his undergraduate career at Grambling State University in Louisiana before transferring to a predominantly white university (PWI). He says his experience at both institutions prompted him to launch the organization and earn his MBA from Howard University.
“I had a really great experience at Grambling before I had to leave on medical leave,” Martin explained. “And then, you know, I actually ended up attending a PWI after that. It wasn’t necessarily the same experience. I was more of an outcast. I felt unseen. You know, I felt alone. Although there were some friends that I had that were white, I just still felt it was a completely different experience from Grambling State.”
Martin says while his non-profit advocates for students to go to college, their first goal is to ensure prospective college students have the tools needed to receive their high school diploma.
“We operate with a mantra of no HBCU left behind, right? But we also have to take a step back and really understand what that means from a community sense, right? So there’s also no child left behind. I think it’s important for us to make sure we’re being intentional about reaching parents,” he explained.
In years past, HBCU Night, Inc. hosted a slew of in-person college fairs, career fairs, educational panels, and alumni fundraisers. When COVID-19 hit, the organization kept momentum going with the launch of their virtual college fair series, A Digital World.
In 2020, they connected over 38,000 scholars to HBCU recruiters and helped facilitate over $52 million in scholarships to students in over 1,200 cities globally.
“It’s all about giving access,” Martin adds. “I think for us, the fact that our programing is absolutely free, is digital [for], you know, students all over the world. One of our scholars who ended up matriculating into Howard, with scholarships, was a young Black man who was a prospective student living in South Korea.”
“That’s just one example,” he continued. “We’ve reached people all over the UK, Canada, Africa, of course all over the U.S., the Caribbean. So we don’t want to limit things in just one capacity.”
A Digital World 2021, which began in late September, features in-depth conversations with recruiters, HBCU faculty, and current students. Each session is streamed live, then posted on the organization’s YouTube channel.
Aside from the virtual career fairs, Martin is also aiming to spread the word about Historically Black Colleges and Universities to the younger generation through his new flash fiction children’s book, HBCU Night.
“The story is about a young girl named Imani, who essentially is just this bright young lady who wants to learn about HBCUs,” Martin said about his book. “Like what does HBCU even stand for? You follow along as Imani’s mother and brother help her discover excellence at the greatest night of all time. You know, for a little child it’s never too early to learn about Historically Black Colleges and Universities. That’s where critical learning starts, in the home.”
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