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The HBCU Social Experience – To Be or Not To Be…Involved?

The HBCU Social Experience – To Be or Not To Be…Involved?
Posted By: Elynor Moss on October 02, 2013

By: Loren Moss

We all know the primary reason for going to college is the education. A very close second is for the experience that helps us to mature from a child into an adult and full participant in society. This includes socialization, or how to participate in society, but also leadership and developing the ability to take initiative and to contribute to organized efforts and working towards common goals.

This is where many of us look at joining groups such as fraternities and sororities, but there are also many other alternatives that we should consider as additional opportunities for personal growth and service to others.

Student Government

One important group to consider is Student Government. Student Government is, in most cases, the method whereby the voice of the student body is formalized in the governance of the college or university, including a seat on the board of trustees, and a direct line of communication with academic and administrative leaders. Florida Memorial University holds the honor of being the first HBCU meeting the standards of the national student government advocacy organ, the American Student Government Association. Students that participate in Student Government gain valuable experience in organizing elections, advocacy, public speaking and writing, and also have the opportunity of establishing valuable high level community connections. Any student can benefit from the experience, but it is especially valuable for those with a desire to go into politics or public life.

“My student experience as the diversity chairman was invaluable…not only I had the opportunity to build life-long relations and friendships, but also, I had an initial taste of what politics in the real world is about: representing constituencies’ interests, building coalitions and negotiating,” said German Trejo who worked in student government and now works as a political consultant.

ROTC

The Reserve Officer Training Corps is a nationwide program backed by the federal government and offered at over a thousand universities and colleges. The ROTC pays for college, but also provides the student who successfully completes the program with an officer’s commission.



The ROTC in addition to providing support, camaraderie and additional training, prepares students for a potential career in the nation’s fighting forces. Aside from the other benefits already mentioned, the ability to enter the military as an officer is invaluable. Campus ROTC programs are designed and run to coordinate carefully and complement rather than disrupt other aspects of the college experience. The Coast Guard has a separate, somewhat different program called the Coast Guard Student Reserve.

Student Ministries

Often students away from home for the first time miss the familiarity, fellowship and support they got growing up from their church, mosque, synagogue or temple. Participating in student religious groups can go a long way to replace that spiritual nourishment and give them a sense of belonging, especially when they are far from home. Some groups are tied to specific churches or faiths, while others are non-denominational.

Academic Groups
Though this may seem to be an obvious choice, for some reason many students ignore the opportunity to get involved with extracurricular groups that support their career aspirations. In addition to the opportunity to socialize, network and study with students in a similar major, these groups often provide valuable contacts to potential employers and host very enriching visits and tours with companies and agencies that hire or operate in the particular area of academic study.

Toastmasters

Many students have heard of Toastmasters International, but far fewer actually know what it is. Toastmasters is a worldwide organization with local chapters that help members to develop public speaking skills. In 116 countries, members meet regularly and give speeches and presentations to each other with the goal of helping to hone and develop communications and presentation skills. There is no teacher, but members take turns organizing the meeting and each member offers constructive criticism for the presenter in a supportive environment. Toastmasters is especially valuable for the shy, those with stage fright, or students who feel they don’t yet have the confidence or experience to be an effective communicator. Many colleges and universities have toastmasters chapters, and if yours doesn’t you can always start one! See www.toastmasters.org for more information.
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