MILWAUKEE — This week Milwaukee Public Schools students learned about Historically Black Colleges & Universities through their annual "Empower Me" tour.
For seniors like Amillia Bell, graduating high school and going on to attend an HBCU is a dream she's been working towards.
"I'm most excited about just being around other people who look like me," said Bell.
Bell, alongside her peers at Rufus King High School, has spent the last week interviewing and submitting applications to their desired HBCUs through the Empower Me tour.
"The Empower Me tour is really about instilling a sense of hope with students," said Ophelia King, Manager of School Counseling with MPS.
Cheryl Crosby, an Academic and Career Planning Coordinator with MPS, was able to experience that hope firsthand at Alcorn State University.
"It prepared me to be a great educator. I was 1,000 miles away from home, but I still felt like I was with family. I was embraced by my instructors, I was embraced by the other students on campus," said Crosby.
Currently at MPS, Golda Meir School Upper Campus leads the district in the percentage of graduates who have gone onto HBCUs, and Rufus King High School leads in numbers. Since 2018, MPS has sent approximately 100 students to HBCUs.
Influential figures like Vice President Kamala Harris and late actor Chadwick Boseman are both HBCU alums.
Senior Caasi Woji has spent the week meeting deadlines and submitting applications to several different HBCUs, mainly because she wants to feel represented.
"I think it's mainly just like seeing yourself in others, and not just like feeling little or closed off or held back because you are the minority," said Woji.
The event opened the eyes of many students who had no clue HBCUs even existed.
"A lot of times students said, 'Black students go to college?' Because typically you know they're seeing a small number of themselves at a university," said King.